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Reference type: Journal
Authors: Sims MR, Cullen DC, Bannister NP, Grant WD, Henry O, Jones R, McKnight D, Thompson DP, Wilson PK
Article Title: The specific molecular identification of life experiment (SMILE).
Publication date: 2005
Journal: Planetary and Space Science
Volume: 53
Issue: (8)
Page numbers: 781-791.
DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2005.03.006

Abstract: We describe a compact, highly integrated instrument concept for the detection and identification of a wide range of molecules associated with extinct/extant life or potential life processes. The Specific Molecular Identification of Life Experiment (SMILE) will be sensitive to the presence of a range of target molecules using both electrical and optical transduction techniques, and incorporates molecular imprinted polymers in addition to traditional biological receptors such as antibodies. A number of versions of the concept are possible depending on available resources e.g. mass, volume, etc. The full concept utilises a novel imaging interferometer where a large number of molecular receptors are deposited on the measurement plane of an imaging interferometer and read out by an imaging detector, enabling multiple targets--biomarkers--within a sample to be measured simultaneously. The optics can also form the basis of an UV-NIR imaging Fourier spectrometer allowing basic mineralogy studies to be conducted using optical properties to assist in the determination of the geological context of the samples. By incorporating micro-fabricated transducer arrays, micro-fluidics and artificial molecular recognition systems, as well as recombinant antibody technology with appropriate integration methods, SMILE forms a compact and robust "Life Marker Chip" which has been proposed for future planetary missions including ESA's ExoMars mission, where the instrument offers the possibility of conducting a direct in situ search for signs of past or present biological activity on Mars. In addition to its role in planetary exploration, derivatives of SMILE have multiple terrestrial applications in fields such as forensic analysis and environmental monitoring
Author keywords: Planetary instrumentation, Exobiology, Life detection, spectrometry, surface plasmon resonance, molecular imprinted polymers

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