by Dr. Jonathan Volk, the ISS National Lab Research Scientist
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (the ISS National Lab) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have joined together to offer an exciting opportunity for microgravity research on the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab in the field of fluid dynamics. The focus of this newly released solicitation is to utilize the ISS to develop fluid dynamics studies that will have direct terrestrial benefit. A big part of the the ISS National Lab mission is to improve life on Earth through space-based research. The NSF mission states that it strives “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.” There is great overlap between the goals of both organizations, which makes this partnership an excellent match. The ISS is the most intriguing platform for research in existence today, and will provide wonderful opportunities for NSF to further advance its mission. This solicitation in fluid dynamics will hopefully be the first of many solicitations offered by NSF and the ISS National Lab that may cover a wide variety of scientific disciplines.
Over the years, the ISS National Lab has expanded its scope to target researchers of all types, ranging from academia, to government agencies, to commercial companies (from Fortune 500’s to start-ups). As research areas have been identified across these various groups of scientists, it is clear that fluid dynamics is an important topic that could greatly benefit from studies in long-term microgravity. Such benefits include the following:
- The absence of processes such as thermal convection, sedimentation, hydrostatic pressure, and buoyancy can all contribute to the change in behavior of a fluid in space. The elimination of these variables allows phenomena-of-interest to be studied without gravitational interference.
- Microgravity can influence the liquid crystal growth process and the molecular structure of a material during phase changes.
- Microgravity may also enable the measurement of certain physical properties of fluids, such as diffusion coefficients and surface tension that are difficult to measure sufficiently well in Earth-based labs.
- The long-term exposure to microgravity is also important in many fluid dynamics studies, as longer time scales are often necessary (e.g., to fully develop flow profiles or to allow weakly driven flows to occur). Long-term experimentation cannot be conducted in parabolic flights or drop towers, thus necessitating use of the ISS National Lab.
With the help of the ISS Program Office, the ISS National Lab and NSF are able to offer a suite of hardware for experimentation that covers a wide range of fluid phenomena, such as:
- Multiphase flow
- Capillary flow
- Interfacial behavior
- Surface tension
- Biological and physiological transport
Consistent with the missions of the ISS National Lab and NSF, it is important that these studies have direct terrestrial impact. Both organizations have identified industries that could potentially benefit from fluid dynamics research. Examples of these industries include:
- Consumer products
- Oil and gas
- Medical devices and pharmaceuticals
In summary, this solicitation should expand on the research conducted in fluid dynamics and complex fluids in the NASA portfolio. There is great optimism that the results of the selected studies will make a significant impact in advancing the technology in various industries, as previous experiments in this field have already done. the ISS National Lab and NSF are pleased to be collaborating on this effort and to offer this research opportunity on the most unique laboratory ever created, the International Space Station National Lab. To learn more about this opportunity, go to: https://www.issnationallab.org/Opportunities/Solicitations/FluidDynamics2015.aspx. To better understand the features and capabilities of the ISS, including available facilities and past research, go to: www.spacestationresearch.com
the ISS National Lab strongly recommends all interested respondents to submit a Feasibility Review Form no later than February 3rd, 2016.