The Zeolite Crystal Growth (ZCG) experiment got off to a successful start this week aboard the International Space Station.
Expedition Six Commander Ken Bowersox uses a portable plastic enclosure called the Maintenance Work Area on Dec. 16, 2002, to prepare Zeolite Crystal Growth sample tubes for processing. Hard as a rock, yet able to absorb liquids and gases like a sponge, zeolites form the backbone of the chemical processes industry on Earth. By using the International Space Stations microgravity environment to grow larger, better quality crystals, NASA and its commercial partners hope to improve petroleum manufacturing and other processes. (Credit: NASA/JSC)
Hard as a rock, yet able to absorb liquids and gases like a sponge, zeolites form the backbone of the chemical processes industry. Virtually all the world’s gasoline is produced or upgraded using zeolites. Improving zeolites could make gasoline production more efficient or lead to ways of storing clean-burning hydrogen for fuel. Zeolites can also be applied to detergents, optical cables, gas and vapor detectors for environmental monitoring.
The microgravity environment of the Space Station allows scientists to grow higher-quality crystals that are 100 to 500 times larger than normal for analysis and test the crystallization process in “slow motion” without being rushed by the effects of gravity.
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