Capillary Electrophoresis (CE) Method Development

A collaboration is underway with Dr. M. Fernanda Mora and Dr. Peter Willis at the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on the development of analytical instrumentation and methods to search for possible signs of extraterrestrial life on possible future spaceflight missions to places such as Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons) and Enceladus (one of Saturn’s moons), where there is evidence for liquid water oceans. The project involves the development of methodology to look for chemical signatures that indicate the presence of cells in samples collected in situ on these ocean worlds. We are working on the development of an apparatus for cell enrichment and lysis, as well as methodology to analyze the resulting samples on-line by capillary electrophoresis (CE) with mass spectrometry. As a preliminary step in this project, a CE method with simultaneous UV and capacitively coupled contactless conductivity detection has been developed for the separation of multiple small biomolecules found in cells that could be used as biosignatures.

chart showing chemical compound absorbance levels detected by new capillary electrophoresis method