This week, International Space Station (ISS) crew members worked on a project to help scientists better understand the physical interactions between soil and sediment particles. The investigation, led by a team of researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, aims to study forces between particles that cluster together by looking at quartz and clay sediment particles suspended in water. The microgravity environment on the space station allows researchers to examine how particles cluster over long periods of time without effects from gravity, such as settling, that complicate ground-based measurements.
This research has important applications back on Earth, where quartz and clay sediment systems are common in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Results from this investigation could help scientists improve environmental and geological monitoring, carbon cycle modeling, and the sequestration of contaminants. It could also help oil companies more precisely find deep sea sites for drilling productive oil wells.
This project was one of five experiments resulting from a joint fluid dynamics research solicitation from the ISS National Lab and the National Science Foundation. Learn more about the investigation in the ISS360 article “Particles Take Up Space.”