The optical nanomotion detector: a microfluidics-based instrument to search for extra-terestrial life, human microbial infections and habitat contaminations in space

Project Details


The existence of life in extra-terrestrial environments is currently one
of the most intriguing scientific questions. Since the chemical
composition of these organisms is unknown, a chemistryindependent life detector would be an appropriate device to equip
interplanetary mission lander probes in their quest for searching
extra-terrestrial life. A couple of years ago, we demonstrated that all
living organisms are animated by nanometric scale vibrations that
stop once the organism is dead. These small-scale oscillations seem
to be a universal signature of life. Here, we propose to develop an
instrument that detects these cellular nanomotions. This detector will
also be optimised to perform antimicrobial susceptibility testing in
microgravity and assess disinfection methods to control microbial
contaminations in space habitats. The device will be based on optical
microscopy (3D printed open-source microscope), microfluidics
(filtration and cell trapping), and image processing algorithms
(Python on Raspberry Pi).
Effective start/end date1/01/2231/12/25


  • Detection of life
  • cellular nanomotion
  • instrument development

Flemish discipline codes

  • Astrobiology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Microfluidics/flow chemistry
  • Biophysics not elsewhere classified
  • Microbiology not elsewhere classified