|Posted on Feb 18, 2011 03:17:56 PM | Julie Robinson | 1 Comments ||
This week’s guest blogger, Dr. Peter Boul, shares some of the exciting facility developments for the International Space Station National Laboratory with the readers of A Lab Aloft.
World-class research on the International Space Station would not be possible without a dedicated suite of state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and the project scientists that help academic researchers to use them. These are the resources that make experiments possible and are invaluable to microgravity scientists.
The Light Microscopy Module (LMM) is a case-in-point for a state-of-the-art facility enabling high-impact scientific research. This module features a light microscope capable of supplying images of samples on the space station magnified by up to 100 times their actual size. These images are digitally processed and relayed back to Earth, where remote control of the microscope resides. This allows flexible scheduling and control of physical science and biological science experiments within the Fluids Integrated Rack or FIR on the space station. The present LMM will provide high-resolution images of samples and their evolution. In the near future, the LMM will produce 3-dimensional digital images, with the future addition of a confocal head for the microscope.
NASA astronaut T. J. Creamer performing operations with the Constrained Vapor Bubble
or CVB investigation using the Light Microscopy Module.
(Image courtesy of NASA)
Dr. William Meyer, who works with scientists around the country to develop and complete their investigations using the LMM, recently gave a talk highlighting the microscope at the 2010 conference for the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, known as AIAA. According to Dr. Meyer, “the LMM is going to provide insights into many classes of samples because it provides a microscopic view of samples, which does not require theory to provide a bridge to understand what is going on [at the micro- and nanoscales].”
This 3-D image displays some LMM-ACE confocal imaging goals.
(Image courtesy of Dr. Peter Lu, Harvard)
A Powerful Lens to Microscale Phenomena in Microgravity
The LMM concept is a modified commercial research imaging light microscope with powerful diagnostic hardware and interfaces. It creates a cutting edge facility that enables microgravity research at a microscopic level.
There are a variety of different physics, biology, and engineering experiments already scheduled to use the LMM. One such experiment, the Constrained Vapor Bubble experiment or CVB, is a joint collaboration between NASA and Peter C. Wayner, Jr., Ph.D. of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. CVB investigates heat conductance in microgravity as a function of liquid volume and heat flow rate to determine the heat transport process characteristics in a curved liquid film. The data from this experiment may help scientists and engineers develop reliable temperature and environmental control systems for interplanetary travel. The information from CVB may also lead to improved designs of systems for cooling critical components in microelectronic devices here on Earth.
Visualizing Molecular Machines
The LMM can also facilitate studies in nanotechnology and nanomaterials. Understanding and predicting the forces between nanoscale particles is critical in the design of nanoscale materials. The science community is interested in learning more about the forces that regulate molecular machines, which are crafted for integration into new materials and new medicines.
To this end, researchers such as Dr. David Weitz and Dr. Peter Lu with Harvard University, Dr. Paul Chaikin with New York University, Dr. Matthew Lynch with Proctor and Gamble, and Dr. Arjun Yodh with the University of Pennsylvania, along with NASA Glenn Research Center are working together to conduct a series of Advanced Colloids Experiments or ACE. This investigation looks at how order arises out of disorder, colloidal engineering, self-assembly, and phase separation. Some of the early microgravity colloids work demonstrated used modeling atoms with hard-sphere colloids to understand this idea of order arising from disorder. The ACE experiments may give scientists a better description of the magnitudes of the forces that operate on the nanoscale and how to control them. The potential applications from this work are vast and may apply to such topics as the design of molecular and biomolecular machines, nanoelectromechanical systems, and methods for enhancing the shelf-life of medicines and foods.
Using the LMM facility is just one way in which an investigator can employ the station to pave a path to success in space research. Investigators now have a wide variety of instruments at their disposal on this orbiting laboratory. The outlook for the International Space Station National Laboratory is bright and ready to contribute to the next generation of great discoveries in science.
More Funding Opportunities
The LMM is a fixed facility on the space station and is available for use for laboratory experiments. National Laboratory investigators can use this facility through agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. Researchers who wish to see their experiments on the space station can find out how to take advantage of the opportunity to use facilities, such as the LMM, by visiting the National Laboratory For Researchers Webpage. For specific questions, contact the help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail email@example.com.
Dr. Peter Boul
NASA’s Johnson Space Center
International Space Station Program Science Office
Dr. Peter Boul is the Physical Science and External Facilities Specialist in the International Space Station Program Scientist’s Office. He is an author to numerous patents and peer-reviewed publications in nanotechnology. Dr. Boul earned his Ph.D. in chemistry under the tutelage of 1996 Nobel Laureate, Prof. Richard E. Smalley. Following his doctoral studies, he was granted a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship from the French government to work with 1987 Nobel Laureate, Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn, in dynamic materials.
Tags : General, Guest Bloggers, ISS as a Laboratory, Science, Technology, US Research