NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) - 11.22.16

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Crew members on the International Space Station receive food during cargo deliveries, but humans on future long-duration missions to the moon, Mars or asteroids will need to grow their own food. NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) tests how well fast-growing plants, such as pea shoots, can grow with combinations of red and blue wavelengths of light. Students from Duchesne Academy in Houston germinate plants from seeds and place them in a 1.5 U NanoLab so they can be grown in microgravity.
Science Results for Everyone
Initiation of this investigation has been affected by the loss of the Orbital-3 launch vehicle and mission in October 2014.

The following content was provided by Kathy Duquesnay, M. Ed., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Module-46

Principal Investigator(s)
Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Houston, TX, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Kathy Duquesnay, M. Ed., Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Houston, TX, 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
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - September 2015; March 2016 - September 2016

Expeditions Assigned
43/44,47/48

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth¬† (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) uses a combination of red and blue light-emitting diode (LED) lights to identify the combination of LEDs that induces the most rapid growth on pea shoot plants.
  • Pea shoots, Pisurn sativum, contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.¬† They are also low in sodium, fat, and sugar. They can be harvested after only two to four weeks of growth, and have a seed shelf life of four to five years.
  • NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber uses a standard 1.5 U (15 cm by 10.16 cm by 10.16 cm) anodized aluminum NanoLab with a NanoRacks Embedded System Interface (NESI+) microprocessor containing red and blue LED lights, 2 cameras, pea seeds in Phytoblend agar with nutrients as the growth media.

Description

The selection process for a nutritional, rapidly growing plant that is easily grown from seeds led to several vegetables commonly eaten as shoots. In their early stages of life, peas, popcorn shoots, broccoli shoots, and bamboo make excellent test subjects to observe the speed of growth under different wavelengths of light. Pea shoots contain high amounts of Vitamin A, B, C, E, calcium, chlorophyll, iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, amino acids, and protein up to 25%. In additional to their nutritional values, they are also low in sodium, fat, and sugar. They can be harvested after only two to four weeks of growth, and have a seed shelf life of four to five years. Pea shoots, Pisurn sativum, are the chosen plant for NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber).                                                                                                                                           

NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber uses a combination of red and blue light-emitting diode (LED) lights. According to research, a mixture of red and blue lights provides the optimal wavelength to induce favorable plant growth.  Professor Allen Barker at University of Massachusetts Amherst stated that 450 and 650 nanometers are required for photosynthesis, and red light has wavelengths between 622 and 780 nm. Blue light has wavelengths from 455 to 492 nm, and violet light between 390 and 455 nm. Also wavelengths between 650 and 730 nm allow the plant to flower by influencing the photochromic plant pigment.

When pea shoot plants, Pisurn sativum, are exposed to microgravity and different combinations of red and blue light wavelengths, then the plants demonstrate the most growth on the side with the ratio of three red to one blue super-bright LED light, because red light has the longest wavelength, is bent the least, and moves the slowest, so the plant is able to absorb the light more effectively.  The other side has three blue LEDs and one red LED.  The four LEDs are in cluster on a side opposite the seeds. The seeds, after sterilization with a 5% bleach solution and rinsing in sterile water, are placed on top of Phytoblend agar with nutrients. This supplies the necessary moisture and growth media required for the pea shoots. Twice a day while the lights are on, a photo is taken. This allows for the observation and measurement of length and growth and even creation of a time-lapse movie of the plant growth.  Growth of the plants on each side is measured by viewing the photographs.  The progress of the plant growth is compared to a grid attached to the sides of the 3D printed divider.  The grid is marked off in 0.2 cm increments. The LEDs and the cameras are attached to and controlled by the Nanoracks Embedded System Interface (NESI+) microprocessor which was designed and built by undergraduate students from Texas A&M University. The NESI+ is attached to one end of the NanoLab and the seed containers are attached to the opposite end. After the NanoLab returns to Earth the mineral content of the plants on each side are analyzed and compared.

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Applications

Space Applications
Plants need light to grow, but spacecraft have strict weight and size restrictions that may make it more difficult to produce food. This investigation tests the ability of colored light-emitting diodes to provide enough light for plants to grow. Results identify the best combination of red and blue LEDs to produce rapid plant growth. The findings may make it possible for crew members to grow and harvest their own fresh vegetables.
 

Earth Applications
The investigation sheds light on methods for growing nutritious vegetables with minimal light, nutrients and space. More efficient crop production improves yield and availability of food while minimizing resource use, benefiting people in developing countries, urban areas and regions experiencing drought.
 

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

NanoRacks Module-46 operates autonomously once plugged into the NanoRacks Platform.  Data is downlinked prior to being destowed. It is returned cold stowage (+4°C).

NanoRacks Module-46 is destowed immediately in order to have the maximum number of days possible to obtain data.  It is plugged into the NanoRacks Platform and operates autonomously for a minimum of 24 days.  NanoRacks Module-46 returns cold stowage at +4°C.
 

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
CASIS National Design Challenge Pilot Program

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Imagery

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NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) looking down into the NanoLab at the 2 boxes that hold the growth media and seeds.  Image courtesy of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) cameras, LEDs, and Gore-tex covering the air exchange holes. Image courtesy of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) view of the LED lights, cameras, and the NESI+. Image courtesy of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart students focusing the cameras for the NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) investigation. Image courtesy of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart student working with the NanoLab for the NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth  (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber). Image courtesy of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart student transferring pre-germinated seeds for the NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth (NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) investigation. Image courtesy of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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Students from Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart working with Ms. Livia Santos focusing the cameras for NanoRacks-Duchesne-The Effects of Microgravity and Light Wavelength on Plant Growth  (phase 1).(NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber) with Ms. Alli Westover looking on. Image courtesy of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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