NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Oil Bubbles (NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Oil Bubbles) - 11.19.14

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery
ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
On Earth, oil floats above water due to the liquids’ different densities. NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Oil Bubbles is a student-designed investigation that explores whether microgravity affects this mixing phenomenon in space. Data from the investigation benefits materials research and future mixing methods in space.

Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Daniel Rockberger, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Experiment Details

OpNom NanoRacks Module-9 S/N 1010

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Daniel Rockberger

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
    Information Pending
    NanoRacks, LLC, Webster, TX, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    National Laboratory (NL)

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    September 2013 - March 2014

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions
    Information Pending

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • NanoRacks-NSL Satellites-Oil Bubbles aims to investigate how oil and water mix differently in space than they do on Earth.
    • NanoRacks-NSL Satellites-Oil Bubbles allows students to further explore the behavior of materials and liquids.
    • NanoRacks-NSL Satellites-Oil Bubbles explores the mixing ability of different specific densities, in space.


    The goal of the high school students is to investigate how two materials (liquids) with different specific volumes mix.  Just as water and oil do not mix on Earth, and oil floats above twater, NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Oil Bubbles tests this in space and freezes the situation.

    The challenge is in determining what liquids to use, and after a long set of mixing experiments, the liquids chosen are water and epoxy resin.  In this case, the water is acting like the oil and the epoxy like the water. The epoxy is in its two-part state, when all mixed together the epoxy parts connect and start to mix (or not) with the water, and after many hours the epoxy dries and freezes that point in time. What is observed when the MixStix is opened up on earth indicates what happened inside the MixStix under microgravity.  Did they mix? If so, how? If not, how are the liquids positioned in the MixStix?

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    Space Applications

    The investigation examines whether water and epoxy resin readily mix in microgravity. The epoxy begins in an unmixed, two-part state, and mixes when a crew member shakes the tube to combine the epoxy with water. Results improve engineers’ understanding of mixed materials in microgravity, which is important for future habitat construction, repairs, food preparation and other uses.

    Earth Applications

    Results from the investigation are compared with those from epoxy mixing on Earth. If the mixing process is improved in microgravity, future epoxy mixing procedures can simulate microgravity conditions to enhance performance. The investigation also engages students in experimental design and scientific research, providing real-world experience to prepare them for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

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    Operational Requirements

    The MixStix are unclamped to activate.
    As there are two components of an Epoxy resin that must mix well, it is required to shake for at least 120 seconds, while slightly squeezing the tube and pulling open the clamp as much as possible.

    Operational Protocols

    A crewmember removes the Velcro tabs to open the Module-9 lid. The crewmember unclamps the fasteners on the MixStix as directed, enabling the materials in the various chambers to flow. The crewmember then shakes the MixStix (when directed) to mix the liquids thoroughly for at least 120 seconds. Repeat for all MixStix. Crewmember notes the time of MixStix activation and replaces the tubes back in Module-9. The lid is replaced and secured with the Velcro tabs.

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    Results/More Information
    Information Pending

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    Related Websites

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    image Many different mix combinations where tested out prior to determining the experiment parameters for the NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Oil Bubbles experiment. Notice that mixing colored water with epoxy, and colored epoxy with water provided different results.  Image courtesy of NSL Satellites Ltd.
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    image NanoRacks-NSL Satellites-Oil Bubbles MixStix ready for flight, colored water in center, base and hardener parts of acrylic epoxy resin in the other two chambers.  Image courtesy of NSL Satellites Ltd.
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