Although the Foton was only launched a week ago, the scientists are already very excited about the data they have received from their experiment, known as GRADFLEX (GRAdient-Driven FLuctuation EXperiment). The first results are qualitatively consistent with detailed theoretical predictions made over the past decade.
All liquids experience minute fluctuations in temperature or concentration as a result of the different velocities of individual molecules. These fluctuations are usually so small that they are extremely difficult to observe.
In the 1990s, scientists discovered that these tiny fluctuations in fluids and gases can increase in size, and even be made visible to the naked eye, if a strong gradient is introduced. One way to achieve this is to increase the temperature at the bottom of a thin liquid layer, though not quite enough to cause convection. Alternatively, by heating the fluid from above, convection is suppressed, making it possible to achieve more accurate measurements.
Although the early research involved ground-based measurements, it was suggested that the fluctuations would become much more noticeable in a weightless environment. Now, thanks to the Foton mission, the opportunity to test this prediction has come about, and the results completely support the earlier forecast.
“The first images from the experiment were downloaded to the Payload Operations Centre in Kiruna, Sweden, and received on Earth after only a few orbits,” explained Professor Marzio Giglio, leader of the team from the Department of Physics and CNR-INFM (Istituto Nazionale per la Fisica della Materia), University of Milan, Italy.
To the delight of the science team, the images visually support the theoretical predictions by showing a very large increase in the size of the fluctuations. Data analysis has also shown that the amplitude of the fluctuations in temperature and concentration greatly increased.
“It is a rare event when a space mission is able to confirm a theoretical prediction in such record time,” said Olivier Minster, Head of ESA’s Physical Sciences Unit. “These results are important because they are the first verification of the effects forecast a decade ago.”
“The availability of these images from the spacecraft has enabled us to change what we are doing so that we can optimise the scientific return from the mission,” said Professor David Cannell of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). “We will also have many thousands of images to analyse back in our labs after the experiment returns to Earth. This will keep us busy for quite a while.”
“It may be that our results will influence other types of microgravity research, such as the growth of crystals. Our research may even lead to some new technological spin-offs,” said Professor Giglio.
GRADFLEX is one of 43 ESA scientific and technological experiments on board the 12-day Foton-M3 mission. The mission is scheduled to end on 26 September, when the re-entry capsule will return to Earth in Kazakhstan. The onboard experiments will be returned to their home institutions where the data will be carefully analysed over the coming months.
Olivier Minster | alfa
NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom
28.03.2017 | Aalto University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy