A Collaborative National Center for Fusion & Plasma Research

CLOuDS: 2011 Campaign

2011 Teams & Projects:

Central Jersey SPACE COWBOYS: Surface Tension of Bubbles in Zero-g, 1-g and 2-g & Oscillators in Microgravity

This experiment originated in team member Susan Franko’s fourth grade classroom with the question, “What happens to bubbles in zero-gravity environments?”  The resulting experiment has been designed to answer that question.  

Liquids possess a property known as surface tension.  This property allows liquids to resist an external force, to a certain extent, when it is presented.  An example of this property is the fact that certain lightweight solid objects can be held up by the surface of a liquid regardless of their density in comparison to the supporting liquid.  Surface tension in liquids is created because of the cohesive forces present in the liquid molecules themselves. Most molecules in a liquid are pulled by forces from neighboring molecules in all directions, however molecules at the edges of a liquid sample are.

The molecules at the edges are pulled inward toward the center of the sample and tend to force the liquid sample into a spherical shape.

Bubbles are an example of this property, and are therefore an appropriate medium to use for surface tension experimentation. 

Bubbles are easy to see and count, and inexpensive to buy or make, allowing this experiment to be easily replicated in a classroom setting.  In addition, the science of bubbles can be studied while examining of the properties of solids, liquids and gases, a recurring standard in the NJCCCS from grades K-12.

Jersey City's ZERO-G MEN: Investigation of Complex Fluids in Microgravity

This study of complex fluids in microgravity seeks to analyze the multi-phase phenomena often masked by the effects of gravity. The complex fluids will be contained in transparent chambers that will allow for three dimensional visual observations. A video camera will be used to observe and record the behavior of various characteristic complex fluids. In addition, sound wave amplifiers will be used to apply controlled acoustic pressure for the characterization of effects of stresses and strains of the complex fluids while in the microgravity environment. Aside from the scientific work, this project’s scientific data and results will be used to develop educational curricula on the science of Newtonian and non-Newtonian (complex) fluids that will be subsequently used in various K-12 curricula.

In this experiment a solution of a complex fluid such as “oobleck” will be injected into two resonance tubes, an experimental and control. The tubes allow us to add a stress/strain from an acoustical speaker on the experimental and the control does not apply any acoustical pressure. That will allow us to study the behavior of this fluid under the following conditions: changes of gravity, sound amplitude, and resonance length and frequency. The experiment will be attempted on earth then repeated onboard the aircraft during both microgravity and the varying gravitational portions of the flight. The hypothesis is that the action of the fluids will change in the varying gravitational environment. During the flight, all experiments will be videotaped for further analysis.

Trenton's TEAM ISOTOPES: Collisions in Microgravity: Splash, Bounce, Plop

The purpose of this experiment is to study the splash dynamics when spheres with hydrophilic and hydrophobic coatings are launched downwards at varying speeds into a hermetically sealed tank of water in microgravity and hypergravity.  The miscibility of the spheres’ coatings with water, along with their velocity, should cause the spheres to bounce off the surface of the water, merge with the water, or create a hollow cavity and subsequent splash.  It is suggested that the collision and resulting splash is related to gravity and that analysis of splash dynamics in microgravity and hypergravity may yield surprising results.

The spheres will be launched using a solenoid actuator to vary the speed.  The resulting collisions will be recorded using a high-speed camera and then synchronized with accelerometer data for analysis on the ground.

Philadelphia’s TEAM PHILLYAnalysis of Burn Patterns, Efficiency, and Exhaust for Internal Combustion in Microgravity

Based on prior research, we know that fuel droplets will change shape (become more spherical) in 0g which slows the burn rate.  To test the effects of gravity on combustion, we can adjust timing and air fuel mixture.  We will monitor exhaust gas to see the effect, especially on NOx.  What will happen at 2g?  Can we assume the corollary?  Will 2g cause an increased burn rate due to elongation of the fuel droplet?  We will adjust timing and air fuel ratios to maximize the power / efficiency of that cycle while minimizing the exhaust. Input variables include air fuel ratio, combustion timing, air temperature.  Output variables include power output, fuel use per cycle, instantaneous fuel consumption, exhaust gas, combustion chamber temperature, and visual burn pattern and an infrared visual burn pattern 

We will run an internal combustion engine using propane as the fuel.  The engine is a single cylinder, four-stroke internal combustion engine that has the engine block made out of plexiglass.  This allows the user to see inside the combustion chamber while the engine is running.  

As we run the engine, we will vary air/fuel mixture and ignition timing. We will use a 5-gas analyzer to monitor and collect exhaust data (NOx, HC, CO, CO2, O2) and the temperature sensor to monitor cylinder head temperature.  The gas analyzer is a self-contained unit with data storage.  The temperature sensor and mass flow meter still have to be chosen which will determine the data collection method. We will measure fuel consumption instantly, using a flow meter.  (We hope to have the version of this engine that has a built-in dynamometer which will give us instantaneous power – this will allow us to calculate instantaneous fuel efficiency.)

In addition to the data captured, we will also look at the burn pattern under varying gravity using an infrared and high speed camera.  These images will provide visual burn patterns and infrared patterns.  

Princeton’s FALLING TIGERS: Analysis of Crystallization Dynamics in Microgravity

This experiment will study the crystallization rate and the properties of the resulting crystal in varied gravity environments, microgravity, lunar gravity, Mars gravity, Earth’s gravity and 2-g. The model chosen for the crystallization experiment is sodium acetate (NaC2H3O2) from a supersaturated solution around stationary seed crystals of various sizes. Crystallization rates and the resulting crystal structures of sodium acetate are well known in Earth’s gravity. Crystallization process is exothermal and so depends on heat transfer mechanisms. Microgravity environment affects convective flows and therefore is expected to affect crystallization processes. Simulation of other gravitational environments is relevant to the understanding of rock formation on other terrestrial planets. It is also expected that the size of the seed crystal is going to affect the crystallization process since these crystals present different surface areas to the squirted liquid globule. The changes in the crystallization process will be determined from a video recording as well as additional analysis of the products after the flight. 

A saturated NaC2H3O2 solution will be prepared prior to flight and loaded into syringes (heat resistant plastic or metal tubes fitted with plungers are sufficient). These syringes will be kept in a hot water bath until needed. The water will be preheated and kept hot using insulation and a small electrical heater or just insulation. Seed crystals of various sizes will be set up in the middle of transparent acrylic containers. The containers with the seed crystals will be fixed in a linear or circular rack. The containers with the crystals will not move before or after the experiment.  At the time of the approach to zero-g, a syringe will be inserted into the container and the solution squirted into the acrylic container (with the seed crystal). The emergent solution will cool and become supersaturated. Crystallization will occur upon contact with the seed crystal and the walls and end in 20 – 30 seconds (from 1-g). This procedure will be repeated with four syringe-container combinations with various size seed crystals. An identical set of four solution-seed combinations will be used for 0.37-g and 0.16-g if these are available. If these are not available, and additional set of measurements will be conducted in zero-g. The crystallization process will be video recorded. All additional measurements will be conducted upon return to NJ.

Auburn’s FLYING TIGERS: The equilibrium of solids and liquids in Microgravity and Hypergravity

This project will consist of several small experiments that seek to explore the equilibrium condition of solid and liquid systems under the influence of microgravity and hypergravity.  By studying both regimes, our team seeks to take advantage of all phases of the parabolic flight as well as presenting a broad range of experimental conditions that can be explored in the classroom.

Mechanics experiments:

Two mechanics experiments are considered.  The first is a static equilibrium.  Here, a series of ring-shaped permanent magnets will be arranged in a floating configuration.  The magnets will be placed in a sealed plastic tube.  As the flight transitions between hypergravity and reduced gravity phases, we anticipate observing a change in the height of the magnets.  A calibrated scale attached to the tube will allow for measurement of the heights of the different magnets.  The change in spacing will be recorded by video camera. 

The second mechanics experiment is a dynamic equilibrium.  Here, a small parachute will be released in a drop tube and its rate of fall will be measured by video camera.  The motion of the parachute during the microgravity and hypergravity portions of the flight will be compared to a standard classroom experiment using a similar parachute with the drop tube in a classroom experiment. 

Fluid experiments:

The fluid experiments seek to explore the role of gravity in determining the characteristics of fluid systems.  Each of these experiments will be a closed system that will be observed using the same video cameras used for the mechanics experiment.  Three experiments are considered.

a) Bubble formation and growth – In this experiment, an antacid tablet will be released into a cylinder of water.  Under 1 g conditions, it is known that the bubbles formed in the interaction with the water rise due to their lower density than the surrounding liquid medium.  However, under microgravity conditions, both the dynamics of the formation, the separation of the bubble from the generating surface, and the motion of the bubble are all likely to be impacted.  Using high speed imaging, the experiment will compare the bubble formation process between the laboratory and a ground experiment

b) Density columns – Density columns are commonly used teaching tool used to illustrate the concept that different objects can have substantially different material properties.  However, the separation of fluids of different densities is aided by the action of gravity.  If gravity is reduced or enhanced, this will change the rate at which the fluids separate.  Additionally, some of the dynamics of the separation will likely be altered during the microgravity and hypergravity phases of the flight.  

c) Pump experiment – This experiment is a combination of a fluids experiment and a biological experiment.  The key goal will be to investigate if microgravity and hypergravity have an impact on fluid pressure (e.g., as in an astronaut).  Here, the goal would be to use a small pump to circulate water in a closed loop.  The top of the system is the “head” and the bottom of the system would be the “feet”.  Digital pressure gauges would read out the pressure in the system during the flight. 

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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