NASA Chooses New Microgravity Studies For Funding
July 28, 2013

NASA To Fund Eight New Microgravity-Related Studies

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Eight projects designed to investigate the effects of microgravity on complex fluids and macromolecules have been selected for funding by NASA, the US space agency announced on Friday.

The studies, which will be conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS), "will result in new basic knowledge that provides a foundation on which other NASA researchers and engineers can build approaches to problems confronting human exploration of space or that translate into new tools or applications on Earth," NASA explained.

The proposals, which were submitted to the agency in response to a recent research announcement, come from eight different institutions in six states. The projects will be provided with nearly $6 million in total funding over a five-year period, and each of the experiments are slated to begin immediately.

"Four proposals will investigate colloidal systems," NASA officials said. "Colloids are composed of microscopic particles of one substance suspended in another substance, typically microscopic solid particles suspended in a liquid medium. This research will help scientists understand the interaction, manipulation and assembly of colloidal systems. Applications of this research include areas such as liquid crystals, paints and petrochemicals."

The other four projects will probe biological macromolecules such as proteins, the agency added. These studies will help scientists determine the mechanisms that relate heat and mass transport, formation, solid phase growth and the molecular structure of a variety of these macromolecules. Understanding the structure of these biological substances could head to new insight into (and potentially new ways to treat) neurodegenerative diseases.

Among the proposals selected were The Effect of Macromolecular Transport on Microgravity Protein Crystallization by Larry DeLucas of the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Understanding the Morphology and Stability of Bijels Using Microgravity by Ali Mohraz of the University of California, Irvine; and Fabrication, Crystallization, and Folding of Complex Colloidal Molecules under the Influence of Applied External Fields by David Marr of the Colorado School of Mines.

Other approved projects include Kinetics of electric field-driven phase transitions in polarized colloids by Boris Khusid of the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Amyloid fibril formation in microgravity: Distinguishing interfacial and flow effects by Amir Hirsa of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Growth Rate Dispersion as a Predictive Indicator for Biological Crystal Samples Where Quality Can be Improved with Microgravity Growth by Edward Snell of Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

Rounding out the investigations cleared for funding by NASA were Liquid Crystals of Nanoplates by Zhengdong Cheng of Texas A&M University; and Solution convection and the nucleation precursors in protein crystallization by Peter Vekilov of the University of Houston. All eight studies were selected for funding by NASA's Physical Science Research Program, the US space agency noted in a statement.