Suspend it In Space with Sound

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?

The Sound Based Space Drums

Well, researchers at The University of Bath though so, because they developed a way to keep reactive substances in suspension while in space.

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 the container.

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 adjusted accurately."

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 afterwards.