Science & Technology

New Low-Gravity Simulator Design – Promises To Break New Ground for Future Space Research and Habitation

Left: A schematic of the magnet system designed by Sanavandi and Guo. Proper: Contour plot of the trapping vitality of a water pattern positioned within the proposed magnet, which reveals the dimensions and the form of the area the place the gravity is one % of the Earth’s gravity. Credit score: Courtesy of Wei Guo/FAMU-FSU School of Engineering

As humanity continues its exploration of the universe, the low-gravity atmosphere of area presents uncommon challenges for scientists and engineers.

Researchers on the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering and the Florida State College-headquartered Nationwide Excessive Magnetic Area Laboratory have developed a brand new instrument to assist meet that problem — a novel design for a low-gravity simulator that guarantees to interrupt new floor for future area analysis and habitation.

Their new design for a magnetic levitation-based low-gravity simulator can create an space of low gravity with a quantity about 1,000 instances bigger than present simulators of the identical sort. The work was printed within the journal npj Microgravity.

“Low gravity has a profound impact on the behaviors of organic programs and additionally impacts many bodily processes from the dynamics and warmth switch of fluids to the expansion and self-organization of supplies,” mentioned Wei Guo, affiliate professor in mechanical engineering and lead scientist on the research. “Nevertheless, spaceflight experiments are sometimes restricted by the excessive price and the small payload dimension and mass. Subsequently, growing ground-based low-gravity simulators is vital.”

From left, doctoral pupil Hamid Sanavandi and Wei Guo, affiliate professor on the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering. Credit score: Courtesy of Wei Guo/FAMU-FSU School of Engineering

Present simulators, comparable to drop towers and parabolic plane, use free fall to generate near-zero gravity. However these amenities sometimes have quick low-gravity durations, i.e., a number of seconds to a couple minutes, which makes them unsuitable for experiments that require lengthy statement instances. Then again, magnetic levitation-based simulators (MLS) can provide distinctive benefits, together with low price, straightforward accessibility, adjustable gravity, and virtually limitless operation time.

However a standard MLS can solely create a small quantity of low gravity. When a typical simulator mimics an atmosphere that’s about 1 % of Earth’s gravity, the useful quantity is just a few micro-liters, too small for sensible area analysis and functions.

With a view to improve the useful quantity of an MLS, the researchers wanted a magnet that will enable a uniform levitation power to be generated that will stability the gravitational power in a big quantity. They discovered that they might obtain this by integrating a superconducting magnet with a gradient Maxwell coil — a coil configuration that was first proposed within the 1800s by physicist James Clark Maxwell.

“Our evaluation reveals that an unprecedented useful quantity of over 4,000 micro-liters might be achieved in a compact coil with a diameter of solely eight centimeters,” mentioned doctoral pupil Hamid Sanavandi, a co-author of the paper. “When the present within the MLS is diminished to emulate the gravity on Mars, the useful quantity can exceed 20,000 micro-liters, or about 20 cubic centimeters.”

The researchers additionally confirmed how the MLS might be made utilizing present high-temperature superconducting supplies, which permits it to function with minimal vitality consumption.

This work might show particularly helpful within the preparation for future area missions geared toward long-term habitation of the moon and Mars.

“The truth that our MLS design presents a useful quantity about three orders of magnitude bigger than that for standard solenoid MLSs makes it a possible game-changer within the low-gravity analysis area,” Guo mentioned. “When this MLS design is used to emulate diminished gravities in extraterrestrial environments, comparable to on the moon or the Mars, the resulted useful quantity is massive sufficient to accommodate even small vegetation, making this an thrilling instrument for medical and biology analysis.”

Reference: “Low-Gravity Simulator Design Provides New Avenues for Space Research and Mission Coaching” by Hamid Sanavandi and Wei Guo, 29 October 2021, npj Microgravity.
DOI: 10.1038/s41526-021-00174-4

This analysis was supported by the Nationwide Science Basis underneath Grant No. CBET-1801780. The work was performed on the Nationwide Excessive Magnetic Area Laboratory at Florida State College, which is supported by Nationwide Science Basis Cooperative Settlement No. DMR-1644779 and the State of Florida.

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