NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge) - 11.22.16

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Many previous investigations have demonstrated that plants can grow in microgravity, but root rot continues to be a problem in microgravity due to the retention of deoxygenated water remaining on the roots. The centrifuge spins water off the roots and the contact wetting angle built into the chamber wicks the water to the pump using capillary action. This increases the amount of oxygenated water that comes into direct contact with the plants roots. Results from this student-designed investigation benefit future plant growth efforts on the International Space Station and long-duration space missions.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Matthew Brown, M.S., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Module-53

Principal Investigator(s)
Matthew Brown, M.S., Lakewood High School, Lakewood, CO, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Trevor Lucero, Lakewood High School, Lakewood, CO, United States
Clara Wilson, Lakewood High School, Golden, CO, United States
Ryan Sparks, Lakewood High School, Lakewood, CO, United States
Joe Tiberi, Lakewood High School, Golden, CO, United States

Developer(s)
NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
NanoRacks LLC, Webster, TX, United States
Lakewood High School HUNCH Program, Lakewood, CO, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - September 2015

Expeditions Assigned
43/44

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge) aids the expansion of research surrounding deep space travel and helps in the determination of whether plant growth chambers are an adequate food source in space ship environments.
  • NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge gathers data from the plant’s closed environment in low gravity and this data is analyzed to look at the chamber’s efficiency and capabilities in terms of plant growth. NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge also tests the amount of plant growth that occurs in low gravity over the course of three months.
  • The research done with the Hydrofuge could impact the long term space travel industry and allow for the consideration of plant chambers as a food source, as mentioned above. Also, the research helps to increase the HUNCH program’s reach through the success of this experiment and allows for students around the country to work with and modify the Hydrofuge for possible space use.

Description

The overall purpose of NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge) is to demonstrate, in a low gravity environment, the ability to grow plants and to overcome all of the impediments in this process. NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge has many goals. The investigation aims to overcome the behavior of water in microgravity and how it creates root rot in a plant system. Water collects or clumps together in microgravity and the centrifuge concept of NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge spins the plant to dissipate the collection of water around the roots that oversaturates them and does not allow for the oxygen the roots need. The plant and water chambers contain 80° angles in order to allow the water to collect away from the plant when in the chamber and make it simpler to pump the water from the plant chamber to the water chamber and vice versa. The investigation seeks to prove the use of the contact-wetting angle (80°) in collecting water. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by a plant in an enclosed space in a three-month period in microgravity is measured. Data is collected throughout the experiment and the amount a basil plant grows in an enclosed space in microgravity is measured. NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge displays the innovation of high school students and allows them to be a part of the NASA program.
 
NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge has many different functions, the main one being the pumping mechanism for the water. The water chamber, which is adjacent to the plant chamber, contains the water when it is not being pumped into the plant chamber to feed the plant. When the plant is being fed, the water and the nutrients dissolved in it move to the plant chamber and remain there for a short period of time before being pumped back out into the water chamber. While the pump reverses and sends the water back to the water chamber, the plant begins to spin to move excess water away from the plant and towards the wetting angle, where the pump’s tube is located. This is achieved through the fastening of a specialized solidworks part that contains the plant to a bearing, and through the stringing of a bearing pulley around the solidworks part. The bearing pulley is then attached to another solidworks piece that is connected to a small motor. Therefore, when the motor spins, the bearing pulley turns and the plant moves. Other activities to be completed by NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge include the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) every twelve hours to simulate day and night, the use of a camera to document water level and plant growth, the use of a fan to regulate the CO2 that might clump around the plant and to move the air, and the use of a CO2 sensor to monitor the CO2 levels.
 
The data set is not analyzed until the experiment returns to earth, and the data gathered are stored on the NanoRacks Embedded System Integration (NESI) board. The hypothesis is that the plant survives and grows to fit the area it has been allotted, the CO2 does not suffocate the plant and the water successfully moves away from the roots during the watering process. The main source for data is the camera and all pictures are analyzed post-flight.

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Applications

Space Applications
Efficient plant growth chambers will be required to grow food for future missions to the moon, asteroids or Mars. This investigation studies whether a centrifuge spins away enough water to prevent root rot and encourage healthy plant growth. The investigation gathers data from the plant’s closed environment, collecting information on carbon dioxide, air circulation, and photographic evidence of plant growth during three months. Results benefit future plant cultivation efforts on the International Space Station and next-generation spacecraft.

Earth Applications
This investigation contributes basic research on plant growth and care, including automated processes for monitoring and ensuring plant health that could be used on Earth. Students from Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colorado, designed the investigation, providing a unique educational opportunity and a deeper connection to the space program.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

The investigation requires no crew member observations or subjects to be completed and does not downlink any data or return samples before the three month trip is complete. All that is necessary is the ensured safety of the experiment when being returned to earth.

There are no procedures required on orbit, except the maintenance of the power running to the experiment.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
NanoRacks
Lakewood High School NESI
Lakewood High School Principles of Engineering:NASA Hunch
Lakewood High School Hunch Program

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Imagery

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Image of the complete Hydrofuge for NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge). The clear top is visible. Image courtesy of Trevor Lucero, Lakewood Senior High School.

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NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge) image of the complete Hydrofuge. The clear top is visible as well as the fan and CO2 sensor inside the transparent top. Image courtesy of Trevor Lucero, Lakewood Senior High School.

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image Solidworks image of the NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge) Module. The chamber is visible and solid inside the transparent image. Image courtesy of Trevor Lucero, Lakewood Senior High School.
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Solidworks image of the plant chamber and water chamber for NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge). The plant chamber is the much smaller chamber, while the water chamber has the large dome over it. Image courtesy of Trevor Lucero, Lakewood Senior High School.

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