ISS - International Space Station logo.
April 19, 2018
Standard flat imagery of space science is a thing of the past for researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G). Using the International Space Station’s newly upgraded microscope, the Light Microscopy Module (LMM), scientists can now see microscopic particles in 3-dimensional images.
On April 12, researchers first viewed the particles, called colloids, in 3-D, during the ongoing Advanced Colloids Experiments (ACE). Colloids are suspensions of microscopic particles in a liquid, and they are found in products ranging from milk to fabric softener. Consumer products often use colloidal gels to distribute specialized ingredients, for instance droplets that soften fabrics, but the gels must serve two opposite purposes: they have to disperse the active ingredient so it can work, yet maintain an even distribution so the product does not spoil.
NASA Takes First 3-D Microscopic Image on the Space Station
Video above: A composite 3-D model of NASA's Advanced Colloids Experiment. Video Credits: P&G, NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.
Researchers are using the Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-6 (ACE-T-6) investigation, which has been in development for eight years, to study the behavior of colloids in gels and creams. The team plans to use the results to improve product shelf life and provide for more efficient product packaging.
ACE-T-6 has used a variety of imaging techniques with hardware developed by Glenn and ZIN Technologies, Inc. Now because of last year’s confocal upgrade to the LMM, researchers are able to view micron-sized particles in consecutive 2-D layers, or slices, and combine them into 3-D models that can be viewed from any angle. These models greatly increase the ability for scientific observations of how colloidal systems evolve.
Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-6 (ACE-T-6) on ISS. Image Credit: NASA
In a microgravity environment, particles in these systems settle 100,000 times slower than on Earth, allowing observation during days or weeks instead of just minutes, revealing previously hidden thermo-dynamic interactions.
ACE will continue using this imaging technology through 2019. Researchers will study particle shapes, coatings, chemistry and manipulation with magnetic fields by observing these now visible particle interactions.
P&G has partnered with NASA in research and innovation for more than 10 years to investigate the mechanisms of consumer product shelf life. Researchers can apply knowledge gained from the Advanced Colloids Experiments to improving the stabilizers within gels and creams found within consumer products, which in turn could ultimately improve shelf-life. As a result, the research may lead to commercial enhancements like improved battery performance and solar cells, and better consumer products such as shampoo and pharmaceuticals.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center: http://www.nasa.gov/glenn
Light Microscopy Module (LMM): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=531
Advanced Colloids Experiments (ACE): https://www1.grc.nasa.gov/space/iss-research/iss-fcf/fir/lmm/ace/
Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-6 (ACE-T-6): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1707
Confocal upgrade to the LMM: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/from-2d-to-3d-space-station-microscope-gets-an-upgrade
International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ronald Coulter/NASA Glenn Research Center/Debbie Lockhart.
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