NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School of Dublin-Crystal Formation in Microgravity (NanoRacks-VCHSD-Crystal Formation in Microgravity) - 11.21.17

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School of Dublin-Crystal Formation in Microgravity (NanoRacks-VCHSD-Crystal Formation in Microgravity) explores the feasibility of creating improved potassium aluminum sulfate crystals in microgravity. Researchers observe hydrodynamics and fluid dynamics of the cell using the MicroLab digital camera and light-emitting diode (LED) lights to record fluid flow into the cell and crystal growth as water evaporates through the cell vent. Post-flight, the team examines crystallization processes and quality of crystal structure and compares to crystals formed in gravity. This experiment was designed by students in 10th through 12th grades, with guidance from teachers and industrial mentors, as part of the school’s education goal to promote applied math, science and engineering.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by James Johnson, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Valley Christian High School of Dublin , Valley Christian High School of Dublin, Dublin, CA, United States
James Johnson, Ph.D., Valley Christian High School, Dublin, CA, United States

Magdalena Kazberuk, Valley Christian High School, Dublin, CA, United States

Information Pending

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

^ back to top

Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School of Dublin-Crystal Formation in Microgravity (NanoRacks-VCHSD-Crystal Formation in Microgravity) determines if potassium aluminum sulfate crystals formed in microgravity result in different atomic alignments and improved crystallinity compared to crystals formed in Earth’s gravity.
  • The benefit of improved crystallinity may result in improved chemical properties that can be applied to other chemical crystallization processes.


NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School of Dublin-Crystal Formation in Microgravity (NanoRacks-VCHSD-Crystal Formation in Microgravity) is designed to explore the feasibility of forming crystals of improved crystallinity in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS), as well as observe hydrodynamics, and thus, fluid dynamics of the crystallization cell in microgravity. Two parallel experiments are conducted as part of this project. An aqueous solution of potassium aluminum sulfate is prepared in the Dublin, CA laboratory and stored in two respective double walled collapsible bags. On the ISS, the solutions are slowly transferred into the observation cell. The MicroLab digital camera aided by light-emitting diode (LED) lights records how the fluid flows into the cell and the liquid level in the cell. The second experiment records the water level/evaporates through the Gortex membrane and potassium aluminum sulfate crystal growth. Upon returning to Earth, the crystallization process and crystals in the potassium aluminum sulfate cell are examined using the photographic record. The quality of the crystal structure is examined using x-ray powder or crystal diffraction analysis and compared to the crystals formed in gravity in the Dublin, CA laboratory.
Two miniature peristaltic pumps (RP-Q1 from Takasago Electric Japan) are used to deliver the aqueous potassium aluminum sulfate solution to the crystallization cell. The dimensions of each pump are approximately 1 cm by 1 cm by 3 cm. The crystallization cell is a milled polycarbonate block with a volume of approximately 10 mL. Programming and electronic interface circuitry manages the pumps, timing duration, and photo frequency. Temperature values are estimated to be 32°C-34°C and aid the water evaporation through the crystallization cell Gortex vent. Continuous power is required to support the picture taking every half hour for 30-day experimental window.

^ back to top


Space Applications
This process contributes to further understanding using microgravity to improve the quality of crystal growth.

Earth Applications
This work may lead to improved crystallinity and properties of chemicals for a variety of industrial and medical applications.

^ back to top


Operational Requirements and Protocols
The NanoRacks Black Box is completely autonomous and only requires installation and removal. The payload chamber needs to be returned to the researchers so its contents can be examined. Crew interaction with NanoRacks Black Box is limited to transferring from the launch vehicle to the ISS.

^ back to top

Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

^ back to top

Results/More Information

Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites

^ back to top