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These suspensions have the unique property that the particles phase separate like oil and water and the particles self-assemble into crystals that interact strongly with light like opal.
Photographing these samples in microgravity allows the measurement of these processes while avoiding the effects of particle sinking due to gravity. This study allows the development of new insights into this important material process. Science Results for Everyone Information Pending. Principal Investigator s Barbara Frisken, Ph. Research Overview Colloidal suspensions are used in innumerable applications ranging from the polishing of silicon wafers in the electronics industry to the filtering of fruit juices in the food industry.
Scientifically, colloidal suspensions serve as models of molecular systems for the study of inter-particle interactions and phase i. Depending upon the sample preparation conditions, the suspended particles form gas, liquid and crystal phases. Transitions between gas and liquid are characterized by growth of domains of one phase within the other.
Formation of crystals from a well-mixed sample involves the growth of crystallites within the sample. Each of these phenomena has been studied, but simultaneous crystallization and phase separation remains largely uncharacterized. In the experiment led by SFU, researchers plan to study samples consisting of colloidal suspensions with added polymer that, in equilibrium, contain more than one phase so that the effect of phase separation on crystal growth can be studied.
On Earth, gravity causes the colloids to settle making such a study particularly difficult. In samples prepared by NYU, seed particles have been added to colloid samples which crystallize and the objective is to determine the impact on crystallization speed in the absence of gravity.
Description The focus of the SFU investigation is specifically on the effect of phase separation on crystal growth. On Earth, gravity causes the colloids to settle, making such a study particularly difficult. Performing these experiments in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station allows scientists to study growth of much larger structures, and, thus, maximize the extent to which the behavior can be explored.
Improved understanding of these processes may lead to more refined manufacturing processes and commercial products. The competition between a phase separation process and an order-disorder transition remains largely unstudied and offers an opportunity to observe some fascinating behavior. The overarching goal of all these experiments is to develop the key knowledge to help make colloidal engineering a reality.
In addition, this experiment should help scientists understand some of the fundamental properties of colloid-polymer mixtures to further improve the commercial use of such systems. The purpose of the NYU investigation is to study the effect of spherical seeds on colloidal particle nucleation. One sample will contain no seed particles and act as a control. Investigators hope to measure variations in crystallization speed.
Space Applications No space application has been identified yet. Earth Applications Outcomes of the BCAT-C1 study will be applicable to industrial processes involving colloids in the future, which could include finding new ways to produce plastics or extend the shelf-life of consumer products. All samples also require that manual photographs using the EarthKAM software at least initially be taken by an astronaut.
The pictures are down-linked to investigators on the ground for analysis. Crew homogenizes mixes the sample s and takes the first photographs manually. This helps them optimize the setup and shows that the samples were initially fully homogenized when publishing results later. The following content was provided by Barbara Frisken, Ph. Camera is set to take automatic photographs every 10 min for 8h, then every hour for 5 days SFU samples or every 4h for the first 10 days NYU samples.
At the completion of the run, a crew member tears down and stows all hardware 30 minutes , except if another run is planned.