Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) - 07.19.17

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) is an anodized-aluminum cylinder used to provide passive stowage for investigations studying the effects of spaceflight on small specimens.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Howard G. Levine, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details


Facility Manager(s)
Arthur D. Flowers, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Facility Representative(s)
Howard G. Levine, Ph.D., Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Bionetics Corporation, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States
NASA Kennedy Space Center, Space Life Sciences Laboratory, FL, United States
Engineering Services Contract, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2006 - April 2007; March 2010 - September 2010; March 2011 - September 2011; March 2013 - September 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
BRICs were used in various experiments during Space Shuttle missions STS-63, -64, -68, -69, -70, -77, -78, -80, -85, 87, -93, -95 and -107.

Information Pending

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Facility Description

Facility Overview

The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware was initially a simple anodized-aluminum cylinder used to provide passive stowage for investigations into the effects of spaceflight on small specimens. Over time a series of diverse BRIC hardware variants was created to accommodate various specimens with increasingly more complex requirements for investigations during spaceflight.
BRIC-60: The BRIC-60 mm Petri dish unit has both an upper and lower chamber and can fly as a half canister (lower chamber + lid) or full canister (upper chamber + lower chamber + lid). The BRIC-60 maintains a light-tight environment inside the canister chamber. The BRIC-60 can hold a maximum of twelve 60-mm petri dishes per half canister (a total of twenty-four per full canister) or thirteen Teflon tubes per half canister (a total of twenty-six per full canister that can be placed inside each canister chamber. The total weight of the BRIC-60 is 0.9 kg, and its physical dimensions are 15.9 cm (height) x 9.2 cm (outside diameter). No power is required. Up to eight full canisters or 20 single chamber canisters can be flown in an International Space Station (ISS) stowage locker configuration. The BRIC-60 modified (BRIC-60M) is an enhanced version of the BRIC-60 lower chamber that includes two gas sampling ports capable of drawing gas from two axial heights within the canister volume.
Specimens flown in the BRIC 60-mm Petri dish (BRIC-60) include Lycoperscion esculentum (tomato), Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress), Glycine max (soybean) seedlings, Physarum polycephalum (slime mold), Pothetria dispar (gypsy moth) and Ceratodon purpureus (moss).
BRIC-100:  BRIC-100 canisters have threaded lids on each end that allow for a breathable configuration. This configuration allows passive gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide through a semi-permeable membrane. The vented BRIC-100 configuration is not a light-tight container; however, if gas exchange is not required the breathable lid (containing the semi-permeable membrane) can be replaced with a solid lid providing a sealed, closed experimental environment. The bottom and top lids of each breathable canister have twenty-five 1.0 cm holes and a Teflon membrane (pore size 0.5 µm). Two septa located in the lid allow for gas sampling.
BRIC-100 can accommodate nine 100 mm Petri dishes. An ISS stowage locker can accommodate up to three BRIC-100 canisters. The Petri dishes inside the canister are held in place by a Petri dish rack that provides both vibration isolation from the other dishes within the canister and air space between each Petri dish. Alternatively, if the Petri dish rack is not utilized, the canister is capable of holding up to 21 Petri dishes. The external dimensions of the BRIC-100 canister are 38.0 cm (height) x 11.4 cm (outside diameter).
Specimens flown in the BRIC-100 mm Petri dish (BRIC-100) include Manduca sexta (tobacco hornworm) pupae, Hemerocallis lillioasphodelus L. (daylily) and Dactylis glomerta L. (orchard grass) embryos.
BRIC-100VC: BRIC-100VC is a completely sealed, anodized-aluminum cylinder providing containment and structural support of the experimental specimens. The top and bottom lids of the canister include rapid disconnect valves for purging the canister with selected gases of a defined composition. These specialized valves allow for specific atmospheric containment within the canister, providing a gaseous environment defined by the investigator. Additionally, the top lid has been designed with a toggle latch and O-ring assembly allowing for prompt sealing and removal of the lid. The external dimensions of the BRIC-100VC canisters are 16.0 cm (height) x 11.4 cm (outside diameter). The lower portion of the canister has been equipped with sufficient storage space for autonomous temperature and relative humidity data loggers. The BRIC-100VC canister has been optimized to accommodate standard 100 mm laboratory Petri dishes or 50 mL conical tubes. Depending on storage orientation, 6 or 9 canisters can be flown within an ISS stowage locker.
BRIC OPTI: The Biological Research in Canisters for Nunc OptiCell® (BRIC-Opti) is a sealed aluminum container designed to offer a closed environment with an atmosphere of known initial composition for microbial growth in space. It provides redundant levels of containment during all phases of operation. The BRIC-Opti has no active thermal control, and specimens are specifically selected that are tolerant to the ambient thermal environment on the ISS. Each BRIC-Opti is capable of holding four commercially available Nunc OptiCell® culture chambers.
Nunc OptiCell® culture chambers comprise a sealed polystyrene frame with two gas-permeable polystyrene membranes that provide a hermetically sealed, sterile enclosed area for microbial or cell culture growth.  Media and inoculum can be introduced into the interstitial space between the membrane windows via two resealing septum ports, reducing the risk of contamination. The polystyrene membranes are transparent for basic microscopic observations and histological sectioning. Each BRIC-Opti contains a single battery-powered, autonomous multichannel data logger that is equipped with relative humidity and temperature sensors.  Data loggers are activated prior to final canister assembly and data are retrieved postflight.  Additionally, an internal gas sample can be collected using an external port located on the BRIC-Opti lid. Transfer from ISS stowage to the Minus Eighty Degrees Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) or its equivalent can be performed based on experiment objectives.
BRIC-Petri Dish Fixation Unit (PDFU):  Important information can be gained through simple experiments in which organisms are taken to space, chemically fixed (or stabilized), and then returned for post-flight processing. The BRIC-PDFU is designed to accomplish this using a minimal amount (typically less than one hour) of astronaut crew time. Biological specimens are placed onto (or into) 60 mm Petri dishes containing agar-solidified media, although alternative approaches will be considered. Each Petri dish is then placed inside its own individually sealed PDFU. The PDFUs are assembled and loaded with up to 17mL of either one or two fluids, such as a nutrient solution and/or a chemical fixative, in a reservoir compartment as specified by the selected investigators.  Six PDFUs, or five PDFUs plus one temperature data logger depending on the investigator’s requirements, are then loaded into each BRIC canister. Along with the BRIC-PDFUs, actuator equipment is flown that the crew uses to actuate the hardware. Crew members perform up to two in-flight operations per PDFU to expose the biology to liquid treatments (determined by the selected investigators) and/or chemical fixatives (e.g., glutaraldehyde, RNAlater, formaldehyde) on-orbit prior to return.
A diverse range of investigations can be undertaken, including, but not limited to, plant seedlings (e.g., Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula), callus cultures, Caenorhabditis elegans, microbes, and others. The PDFUs remain contained within the BRIC canisters during all phases of flight operations. In a typical usage scenario, the BRIC-PDFUs can be stowed at a predetermined temperature (for example +4°C) for ascent and transfer to the ISS, activated on orbit by warming to ambient or placement in an incubator, actuated by the crew, thereby preserving specimens for return, and then transferred to cold stowage such as the Minus-Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer (MELFI) or other ambient stowage based on experiment objectives. In the event of a launch scrub the entire assembly can be replaced with an identical back-up unit in order to maintain freshly loaded specimens.
BRIC-LED:  The BRIC-LED is a biological research system that is being designed to complement the capabilities of the existing BRIC-PDFU for the Space Life and Physical Sciences (SLPS) Program. BRIC-LED continues to support a diverse range of organisms, including plant seedlings, callus cultures, Caenorhabditis elegans, microbes, and others. What differentiates this hardware from the BRIC-PDFU series is the inclusion of customizable, discrete illumination of the individual 60 mm Petri dishes. Four different wavelengths of LEDs are available for each Petri dish (default: blue, red, far-red and white). Light intensity and on/off cycling are configured as specified by the investigator. The hardware design is flexible enough to substitute LED packages that include non-default wavelengths. Temperatures are controlled, using forced air-cooling, to ± 3°C of the surrounding air temperature, with no more than a 1.5°C differential between canisters. Additionally, the BRIC-LED monitors and logs temperature, LED status, canister pressure, and accelerometer data.
As with the BRIC-PDFU hardware, biological specimens are placed onto (or into) 60 mm Petri dishes containing agar-solidified media (alternative approaches will be considered). Each Petri dish is then placed inside a single PDFU that remains contained within the BRIC canisters during all phases of flight operations. The PDFUs are prepared with either one or two fluids in the reservoir, as specified by the selected investigators, prior to launch. Crew members perform up to two in-flight operations per Petri dish to either expose the biology to liquid treatments (determined by the selected investigators) and/or chemically preserve the tissues (e.g., glutaraldehyde, RNALater, formaldehyde, or other preservatives) on-orbit prior to return. A single BRIC-LED canister is capable of containing six PDFUs. Actuator equipment used to administer fluids is provided for each BRIC-LED experiment.

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Facility Operations

  • The BRIC is a passive experiment container.
  • Minimal BRIC operations include transferring the BRIC from ISS stowage to the MELFI or other stowage as required by individual investigation requirements.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Results Publications

    Schultz ER, Zupanska AK, Manning-Roach S, Camacho J, Levine HG, Paul A, Ferl RJ.  Testing the Bio-compatibility of Aluminum PDFU BRIC Hardware. Gravitational and Space Biology. 2012 October; 26(2): 48-63.

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Kern VD, Sack FD.  Effects of Spaceflight (STS-87) on Tropisms and Plastid Positioning in Protonemata of the Moss Ceratodon Purpureus. Advances in Space Research. 2001; 27(5): 941-949.

    Krikorian AD.  Minimal Growth Maintenance of Cell Cultures: A Perspective on Management for Extended Duration Experimentation in the Microgravity Environment of a Space Station. Botanical Review. 1996; 62(1): 41-108.

    Brown C, Hilaire EM, Guikema JA, Piastuch WC, Johnson CF, Stryjewski EC, Peterson BV, Vordermark DS.  Metabolism, ultrastructure and growth of soybean seedlings in microgravity: results from the BRIC-01 and BRIC-03 experiments. Gravitational and Space Biology. 1995; 9: 93.

    Zupanska AK, Denison FD, Ferl RJ, Paul A.  Spaceflight engages heat shock protein and other molecular chaperone genes in tissue culture cells of Arabidopsis thaliana. American Journal of Botany. 2013; 100(1): 235-248. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1200343. PMID: 23258370.

    Hilaire EM, Paulsen AQ, Brown C, Guikema JA.  Plastid Distribution in Columella Cells of a Starchless Arabidopsis Mutant Grown in Microgravity. Plant and Cell Physiology. 1997; 38(4): 490-494.

    Kern VD, Schwuchow JM, Reed DW, Nadeau JA, Lucas J, Skripnikov A, Sack FD.  Gravitropic moss cells default to spiral growth on the clinostat and in microgravity during spaceflight. Planta. 2005; 221: 149-157. DOI: 10.1007/s00425-004-1467-3.

    Levine HG, Krikorian AD.  Changes in plant medium composition after a spaceflight experiment: Potassium levels are of special interest. Advances in Space Research. 2008; 42: 1060-1065. DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2008.03.019.

    Paul A, Zupanska AK, Ostrow DT, Zhang Y, Sun Y, Li J, Shanker S, Farmerie WG, Amalfitano CE, Ferl RJ.  Spaceflight Transcriptomes: Unique Responses to a Novel Environment. Astrobiology. 2012 Jan; 12(1): 40-56. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2011.0696.

    Paul A, Zupanska AK, Schultz ER, Ferl RJ.  Organ-specific remodeling of the Arabidopsis transcriptome in response to spaceflight. BMC Plant Biology. 2013 August 7; 13(1): 112. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2229-13-112. PMID: 23919896.

    Salmi ML, Roux SJ.  Gene expression changes induced by space flight in single-cells of the fern Ceratopteris richardii. Planta. 2008; 229: 151-159. DOI: 10.1007/s00425-008-0817-y.

    Link BM, Cosgrove DJ.  Analysis of peg formation in cucumber seedlings grown on clinostats and in a microgravity (space) environment. Journal of Plant Research. 1999; 112(4): 507-516. DOI: 10.1007/PL00013907.

    Hilaire EM, Peterson BV, Guikema JA, Brown C.  Clinorotation Affects Morphology and Ethylene Production in Soybean Seedlings. Plant and Cell Physiology. 1996; 37(7): 929-934.

    Levine HG, Sharek JA, Johnson KM, Stryjewski EC, Prima VI, Martynenko OI, Piastuch WC.  Growth Protocols for Etiolated Soybeans Germinated within BRIC-60 Canisters Under Spaceflight Conditions. Advances in Space Research. 2003; 26(2): 311-314.

    Conger BV, Tomaszewski Z, McDaniel JK, Vasilenko A.  Spaceflight reduces somatic embryogenesis in orchard grass (Poaceae). Plant, Cell and Environment. 2002; 21(11): 1197-203.

    Kuznetsov OA, Brown C, Levine HG, Piastuch WC, Sanwo-Lewandowski MM, Hasenstein KH.  Composition and Physical Properties of Starch in Microgravity-Grown Plants. Advances in Space Research. 2001; 28(4): 651-658.

    Levine HG, Anderson K, Krikorian AD.  The 'Gaseous' Environment in Sealed BRIC-100VC Canisters Flown on 'Mir' with Embryogenic Daylily Cell Cultures. Advances in Space Research. 2000; 26(2): 307-310.

    Paul A, Amalfitano CE, Ferl RJ.  Plant growth strategies are remodeled by spaceflight. BMC Plant Biology. 2012; 12(1): 232. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2229-12-232. PMID: 23217113.

    Krikorian AD.  Space stress and genome shock in developing plant cells. Physiologia Plantarum. 1996; 98: 901-908.

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Related Websites

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Various BRIC-60 configurations. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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BRIC-100 configurations with Petri rack. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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BRIC-100VC with Petri dish rack insert (left) and conical tube configuration (right). Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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Detailed view of BRIC-LED configuration. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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Various views of BRIC-Opti. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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BRIC-PDFU in various configurations. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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Closeup image of the BRIC-PDFU Actuator Tool Kit. Image courtesy of NASA Kennedy Space Center.

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NASA Image:  ISS039E019080 - Expedition 31 flight engineer Rick Mastracchio displays the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) Actuator Tool and BRIC-18-1 Canister D during activation operations at a Maintenance Work Area (MWA) table in the Harmony Node 2. BRIC hardware has supported a variety of plant growth investigations. BRIC Canister part number (P/N) is 1019-M-2100-00, serial number (S/N) is004. The BRIC-18 investigation will focus on the growth and development of seedlings in microgravity. Seedlings will be preserved with a chemical fixative and returned to the ground for post flight evaluation.

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