NanoRacks-Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering-Alum Crystal Growth (NanoRacks-BE WiSE-Alum Crystal Growth) - 05.13.15

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The NanoRacks-Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering-Alum Crystal Growth (NanoRacks-BE WiSE-Alum Crystal Growth) research aims to produce ammonium aluminum sulfate, NH4Al (SO4)2 crystals, (commonly called alum) of higher purity than possible on Earth. Higher purity in microgravity crystals is expected due to the lack of environmental factors such as gravity and convection currents.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Lara Dickens, Physics, Geoscience, and Chemistry, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Module-22

Principal Investigator(s)
Better Education For Women in Science and Engineering (BE WiSE) ISS Academy through the San Diego Science Alliance (SDSA), San Diego, CA, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Hilde N. Van den Bergh, BS Astronomy, MS Physics, San Diego, CA, United States
Lara Dickens, Physics, Geoscience, and Chemistry, Patrick Henry High School, San Diego, CA, United States
Rachel MacManus, Geoscience, Biology, and Chemistry, Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego, CA, United States

Developer(s)
NanoRacks LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2012 - September 2013

Expeditions Assigned
33/34,35/36

Previous ISS Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • A supersaturated alum solution is prepared on Earth and divided into two containers. One is observed on Earth while the second is observed in microgravity. The purity of the two crystals is compared upon return.
  • The potential to grow crystals with higher purity is essential in creating more efficient solar cells and more effective pharmaceuticals.
  • Crystal production in space may provide huge benefits to the medical and energy production industries.

Description
The objective of NanoRacks-Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering-Alum Crystal Growth (NanoRacks-BE WiSE-Alum Crystal Growth) is to compare the impurities of ammonium aluminum sulfate, NH4Al (SO4)2 crystals, (commonly called alum) crystals grown in microgravity to those grown in Earth’s gravity. The experiment is executed in a small NanoRacks compartment which runs autonomously.

The supersaturated solution of alum and distilled water is contained first in glass. Alum was chosen because of its reliability to form crystals under standard environmental conditions. This container is sealed with the combination of cork and silicon. The second level of containment is a transparent polycarbonate tube with two octagonal flat polycarbonate pieces sealed with silicone and then threaded with wire.

The third level of containment is the NanoLab casing which encloses the circuit board, camera, and light emitting diodes. The small camera is positioned to photograph the crystals from outside the polycarbonate tube and inner container. Polycarbonate is chosen because it is both shatter-proof and clear enough to take high-quality pictures through. The four white diodes are positioned on all four sides of the NanoLab and therefore surround the crystals. The diodes are synchronized to turn on when a photograph is taken once every hour.

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Applications

Space Applications
When higher quality crystals are used to make solar cells, energy is produced more efficiently. More efficient solar energy production could lead to less dependence on batteries and therefore a lower cost and more reliable source for powering the International Space Station.

Earth Applications
In addition to improved solar technology that can be applied on Earth as well as in space, crystals of higher purity mean higher quality ingredients for scientific research in chemical fields such as pharmaceuticals. Higher quality crystals would translate to a smaller margin of error and more accurate results in industries such as medicine, cosmetics, water purification and foods.

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Operations

Operational Requirements
NanoRacks Module-22 is completely autonomous and only requires installation and removal. NanoRacks Module–22 returns on 33S.

Operational Protocols
Crew interaction with Module-22 is limited to transferring the NanoRacks locker Insert from the launch vehicle to the ISS, installation and activation of the NanoRacks Frames into the EXPRESS Rack Locker, cleaning of the air inlet filter (as necessary), and data retrieval (as needed) during the mission.

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
NanoRacks

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Imagery

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NanoRacks-Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering-Alum Crystal Growth (NanoRacks-BE WiSE-Alum Crystal Growth) alum solution in secondary containment chamber prior to insertion into NanoLab. Image courtesy of BE WiSE.


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Better Education For  Women in Science and Engineering (BE WiSE) ISS Academy through the San Diego Science Alliance (SDSA) participants from left to right: Gracie Young, Emily Kimura, Shari Duran (mentor), Lara Dickens (mentor), Ellie Lueders, and Hilde Van Den Bergh (mentor) working on NanoRacks-Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering-Alum Crystal Growth (NanoRacks-BE WiSE-Alum Crystal Growth) . Image courtesy of BE WiSE.


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Better Education For  Women in Science and Engineering (BE WiSE) ISS Academy through the San Diego Science Alliance (SDSA) participants who worked on the  NanoRacks-Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering-Alum Crystal Growth (NanoRacks-BE WiSE-Alum Crystal Growth) investigation. Image courtesy of BE WiSE.


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Camille Harris (background) and Grace Young confirm the mechanics of the device that fits in the NanoRacks-Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering-Alum Crystal Growth (NanoRacks-BE WiSE-Alum Crystal Growth) NanoLab. Image courtesy of BE WiSE. 


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