Observation Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space (OASIS) - 11.25.15

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Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands In Space (OASIS) studies the unique behavior of liquid crystals in microgravity, including their overall motion and the merging of crystal layers known as smectic islands. Liquid crystals are used for display screens in televisions and clocks, and they also occur in soaps and in cell membranes. The experiment allows detailed studies of the behavior of these structures, and how microgravity affects their unique ability to act like both a liquid and a solid crystal.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Padetha Tin, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Noel Clark, Ph.D., University of Colorado. Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States

Joseph Maclennan, Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States
Matt Glaser, Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States
Ralf Stannarius, Ph.D., Magdeburg University, D39106 Magdeburg, Germany
Alexandr Levchenko, Ph.D., Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
Vladimir Dolganov, Ph.D., Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
Pavel Dolganov, Ph.D., Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
Efim Kats, Ph.D., Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

ZIN Technologies Incorporated, Cleveland, OH, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration 1
March 2015 - March 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous ISS Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands In Space (OASIS) experiment’s goal is to better understand the unique behavior of liquid crystals in microgravity.
  • OASIS observes the various aspects of liquid crystals behavior in microgravity such as overall fluid motion, diffusion (the movement of particles from an area of high concentration to low concentration) and the merging of liquid crystal film layers called islands, Fundamental studies of complex fluid physics behavior will be accomplished in two dimensional fluids using freely suspended liquid crystals.
  • The impact of the research is to advance the understanding of two dimensional system physics of complex fluids. Space helmets could use ferroelectric liquid crystal micro-displays. It could advance the understanding of well aligned, very high speed electro-optic devices.

The Observation and Analysis of Smectic Islands In Space (OASIS) investigation tests theories of hydrodynamic flow, of relaxation of hydrodynamic perturbations, and of hydrodynamic interactions in 2D. Freely suspended bubbles in microgravity, without islands, convection, and sedimentation represent nearly ideal, physically and chemically homogeneous 2D fluid systems for the precision study of 2D hydrodynamics. The effects of introducing islands or droplets is recorded, both as controllable inclusions that modify the flow and as markers of flow.


A second goal is to study the behavior of collective systems of 1D layer step interfaces on 2D bubble surfaces, including the equilibrium spatial organization and interaction of islands, and the nonequilibrium coarsening dynamics of island emulsions. In addition to yielding information about a number of relatively weak physical effects (thickness-dependent surface tension and line tension, disjoining pressure, etc.), researchers anticipate that this will clarify the effects of dimensionality in coarsening dynamics (e.g., on dynamic scaling behavior), and interactions between islands and droplets in regimes where they are very weak, in the smectic A phase and at high temperature in the smectic C phase.


The first thermocapillary tests homogeneous two dimensional fluids. The proposed microgravity experiments present a unique opportunity to explore thermocapillarity, the translational symmetry of the films and the absence of convection mitigating anomalous effects to the maximum extent possible, enabling detailed studies of the thermocapillarity of 2D fluids, also the dependence of surface tension and line tension on film thickness and Burgers vector. Ground-based experiments indicate that equilibrium and nonequilibrium island behavior should be sensitive to this dependence, enabling critical tests of extant theoretical predictions.


Probing the effects of a spontaneously broken symmetry in the 2D film surface (the appearance of 2D polar, XY-like ordering and accompanying electrostatic polarization) on the interaction of islands, exploring the stability of topologically stabilized emulsions of 1D interfaces in 2D.

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Space Applications
Future space helmets may use certain types of liquid crystals in small display screens directly applied to the face shield where astronauts can easily view them. Understanding how liquid crystals behave in microgravity helps researchers to design liquid crystal displays (LCDs) that can perform better in space.

Earth Applications
Liquid crystals can flow like a liquid, but contain molecules that are arranged in a specific pattern, just like a crystal. Greater understanding of the physics behind these structures could lead to improved liquid crystal display devices, including devices with improved color contrast and response times. It could also advance research in high-speed electro-optic devices used to control a light beam.

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Operational Requirements
Information Pending

Operational Protocols
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Decadal Survey Recommendations

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Results/More Information

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Related Websites
The Liquid Crystal Materials Research Center
Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers

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image The OASIS Experiment Module above details two views of the assembly. On the right, the MSG GN2 (Gaseous Nitrogen) line is shown at the lower left of the assembly. The air jets, illuminating white light LED panels, and bubble chamber are shown with the external housing semi-transparent for clarity. In the assembly on the right hand side, a closer view of the bubble chamber shows the injector and macro view camera. (NASA Image)
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image Smectic islands on bubble film Macro-observation system imaging. (NASA Image)
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image Microscopic detail of Liquid Crystal Domains/islands tethered like necklaces when an external electric field is applied near the very thin film surface. Properties such as this are part of the OASIS investigation operating aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.
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image NASA Image: ISS044E005118 - View of Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka aligning the Observation Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space (OASIS) Macro Camera.
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image NASA Image: ISS044E005137 - View during the process of aligning the Observation Analysis of Smectic Islands in Space (OASIS) Macro Camera.
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