Droplet Pinning in Microgravity

PI: Amir Hirsa, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The goal of this project is the demonstration, initial testing, and determination of design parameters for the Ring Sheared Drop (RSD), intended for the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The technology is currently under development at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is a novel project that will study interfacial effects of complex fluids without container walls and buoyancy driven convection. The motivation for the RSD is the study of interfacial effects on the formation of amyloid fibrils in protein solutions (“Amyloid fibril formation in microgravity: Distinguishing interfacial and flow effects” NNX13AQ22G). Amyloid fibrils are widely studied due to their importance in a number of neuro-degenarative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The fibrillization process has additional interest for space exploration as models have demonstrated that exposure to cosmic radiation may accelerate fibril formation. Furthermore, the distinctive structure of the fibrils is resilient and simultaneously pliable with potential anthropogenic utility.

Paper: Ring-Sheared Drop (RSD): Microgravity Module for Containerless Flow Studies

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA06 Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems
Problem Statement

Amyloid formation has been extensively researched with the conclusion that both shear and interfacial forces can play critical roles in its initiation and development. However, the relative contributions of bulk and interfacial effects have not been elucidated as these two effects have been invariably coupled in previous experiments. Experimentation in an environment where container walls are eliminated may accelerate model development. The RSD project therefore takes advantage of microgravity aboard the ISS to create a flow geometry in which protein solution is contained by surface tension and pinned by a pair of thin rings.

Technology Maturation

The RSD project seeks to decouple bulk, interfacial, and flow phenomena from one another as much as possible using Earth-based analogous experiments in combination with RSD experiments onboard the ISS in microgravity. Parabolic flight testing aims to demonstrate the payload as well as collect design data to ensure success of the RSD module aboard the ISS. Parabolic flight testing provides a proof-of-concept for the coatings, geometries, and procedures developed for pinning drops in microgravity.

Future Customers


Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    REDDI-14 (April 2015)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 1 Parabolic

Development Team

Web Accessibility and Privacy Notices Curator: Alexander van Dijk Responsible NASA Official: Stephan Ord Last Update: December 8, 2016