NanoRacks-Crystallization Of Silver Nitrate in Microgravity On a Silver Cathode (NanoRacks-COSMOS) - 11.22.16

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The next leap in computing power will require components built on the nanoscale, at the level of individual atoms. But nanowires and other nanostructures require atomic-scale crystals that are difficult to produce, especially in large numbers. The NanoRacks-Crystallization Of Silver Nitrate in Microgravity On a Silver Cathode (NanoRacks-COSMOS) experiment provides new understanding of how microgravity affects silver crystal growth, benefiting efforts to develop new crystal seeding methods for nanotechnology on Earth.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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


Principal Investigator(s)
Eaglecrest High School , Eaglecrest High School, Centennial, CO, United States

Dave Schlichting, M.Ed., Eaglecrest High School, Centennial, CO, United States
Ross Ericson, Eaglecrest High School, Centennial, CO, United States

Eaglecrest High School – CCSD, Centennial, CO, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2016 - September 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
The COSMOS has been tested in microgravity conditions on a NASA C9 aircraft at Ellington Field (JSC) through the HUNCH Extreme Science program.

^ back to top

Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The NanoRacks-Crystallization Of Silver Nitrate in Microgravity On a Silver Cathode (NanoRacks-COSMOS) experiment is designed to assess the 3-dimensional structure of silver crystals formed by electrolysis in microgravity. It is speculated that alterations in the structure of silver crystals may lead to the development of new seeding platforms to generate nanowires for use in electronic components.
  • This system may potentiate methods of nanowire production for commercial use on Earth, and provide the means of producing replacement parts during extended human space exploration.
  • Scientists running a similar experiment onboard Skylab reported significant difference in crystalline structure onboard Skylab versus on Earth’s surface. The hope is to gather more of both quantifiable and quantitative data on this topic to contribute to further understanding of metal crystal synthesis via electrolysis.


Current methods of manufacturing nanowires and other nanostructures, both of silver and other elemental metals, offer many obstacles to researchers hoping to utilize their potential applications in various scientific fields. To make longer silver nanowires and more complex nanostructures a template must be used, rendering mass production of nanowire for use in any applied field infeasible. Admittedly, forming silver nanostructures in microgravity is even more infeasible than producing them via templates, but that is not the goal; NanoRacks-Crystallization Of Silver Nitrate in Microgravity On a Silver Cathode (NanoRacks-COSMOS) hopes to deepen the accepted understanding of the production of metal crystal via electrolysis as to allow others to apply the discoveries when developing new methods of manufacturing nanowires and other nanostructures.
The experiment runs two times: once, onboard the International Space Station (ISS); and again, in Eaglecrest’s manufacturing lab on the surface of the Earth. The experiment being run in Eaglecrest’s lab is used as a control for determining what changes in crystalline structure arose due to the microgravity environment onboard the ISS. Data is gathered, though, regarding all aspects of the experiment including voltage, current, concentration of silver nitrate solution, etc. as to allow an understanding of the results in the context of similar experiments. The NanoLab on Earth’s surface is oriented the same direction every time it is run as to control for variations in crystalline structure that could arise from the varying force of gravity on the crystals. It is oriented in such a way that the tubes are vertical, and the wires point down, out of the screw terminals. This leaves the wire and the crystals hanging from the screw terminals for every ground test run. Consistency in build quality is controlled by manufacturing both experiments in Eaglecrest’s lab in Centennial, Colorado.
Once the experiment has run on both the ISS and at Eaglecrest, the crystals are analyzed at the Colorado School of Mines’ Metallurgy lab in Golden, Colorado. It is there, with the expertise of lab officials, more of both quantitative data describing the crystal structure and qualitative analysis of crystal formation are gathered. This desire for more quantitative data arose from reading a similar experiment that ran on Skylab in the mid-20th century; all data was qualitative and extremely vague, making it difficult to use the results in any commercial or applied field.

^ back to top


Space Applications
Microgravity affects crystal formation, typically enabling larger crystals with fewer defects than those grown on Earth. This investigation studies how microgravity affects the development of silver nitrate crystals grown via electrolysis. Results benefit the development of nanoscale electronics, which could be used in spacecraft and instruments on future space missions.

Earth Applications
Nanoscale structures function at the single-atom scale, and they can only work properly if they are structured correctly. But scientists do not fully understand the mechanics of nanoscale crystal structures, such as how crystals form via electrolyte deposits. This investigation provides new information on this process that benefits future nanotechnology development. In addition, students at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Colorado, designed and built the experiment, gaining real-world training in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and developing a unique connection to the space program.

^ back to top


Operational Requirements and Protocols

The NanoRacks-COSMOS experiment requires power through a USB type B port on the end of NanoRacks Module-69.
Once power is provided through the USB type B port on NanoRacks Module-69, the experiment begins and runs to completion.

^ back to top

Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

^ back to top

Results/More Information

Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites
Eaglecrest High School COSMOS
Cherry Creek Schools

^ back to top


Eaglecrest High School - HUNCH Experiment “COSMOS” (Crystallization Of Silver Nitrate in Micro-gravity On a Silver cathode). Image courtesy of Eaglecrest High School.

+ View Larger Image

EHS – HUNCH “COSMOS” Team Members: Scott Crowner, Gavin Morgenegg, Lars Dreith – Team Lead, Ben Sheffer (L to R). Image courtesy of Eaglecrest High School.

+ View Larger Image

EHS – HUNCH “COSMOS” team member Ben Sheffer designed and built all electronic components and programmed the NESI board. Image courtesy of Eaglecrest High School.

+ View Larger Image

EHS – HUNCH “COSMOS” team leader worked on this project for two years to get the experiment to the ISS. Image courtesy of Eaglecrest High School.

+ View Larger Image