Volatile chemicals and space travel.
Just think about that for a second. The rocket fuel, in a small
space with dangerous chemicals, and lets not forget that some chemicals
react when they touch metal.
Sounds pretty risky doesn't it?
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to keep those chemicals safe?
Well, researchers at The University of Bath though so, because they
developed a way to keep reactive substances in suspension while in
The reactor, named Space-DRUMS, uses beams of sound to position
chemicals in mid-air so they don’t come into contact with the walls of
Can sound really keep chemicals in line? Lets ask the expert.
According to Professor Guigné, (who received his PhD at Bath and is
now a Visiting Professor for the Department of Physics) , explained:
“Space-DRUMS uses beams of sound energy to position solids or liquids
which are floating in zero-gravity. If you’ve ever been to a really
loud rock concert and stood in front of the speakers, you can actually
feel the force of the sound when they turn up the volume. Space-DRUMS
works like this but on a much gentler scale – the beams of sound energy
work like invisible fingers that gently push the sample into the centre
of the container so that it doesn’t touch the walls. Space-DRUMS uses
20 of these ‘fingers of sound’ arranged within a dodecahedron
configured reactor such that the positions of the samples can be
So, short of shooting this baby into space, how did they test the machine?
They tested the system in a low-gravity environment created by the
vertical climbing and nose-diving flight path of a KC135 aeroplane,
nick-named the vomit comet, similar to that used to train astronauts.
Who knew that researchers had such strong stomics? Of course, the real
space based testing is impending. Space-DRUMS was launched into space
in partnership with NASA and installed on the International Space
Station on 14 November, coinciding with the International Space
Station’s 10th anniversary celebrations. The final components will be
sent into orbit in July 2009, with experiments starting shortly