The magnetic chamber can simulate microgravity on Earth (or Martian gravity)-Universe Today

2021-11-12 10:17:12 By : Ms. Apple Ji

There are many processes that may be easier under low gravity. So far, the biggest obstacle to developing these processes is the cost of launching equipment into the low-gravity environment of the International Space Station or other space-based research stations. Considering the ease of use and much lower cost, testing on the ground would be preferable, but the gravity of the earth usually prevents this. Some scientists saw another way. The use of magnetic fields can artificially simulate a zero-gravity environment, and now a team at the Florida State University (FSU) National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has developed a system that can accommodate samples much larger than previous iterations.

The system is a magnetic levitation-based simulator (MLS) with a carrying capacity approximately 1,000 times that of similar systems before. This is a major improvement because size was a limiting factor in early designs, as they could only hold a few microliters of material.  

This is too little for many applications, such as synthetic organs or hydroponic equipment. Therefore, an increase to 4,000 microliters is a major improvement, although it is still far below the level many scientists want. Lower gravity results in a larger experimental area, so when simulating the gravity of Mars, the system can create an experimental space of approximately 20 cubic centimeters.

For many experiments, this is still not very good. Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction and is far superior to expensive alternatives for rocket flying to low orbit or parabolic plane flight, the effect of which is only effective in a few seconds. More importantly, the FSU team used existing high-temperature superconducting materials and integrated them with specific types of coil configurations.

Known as the "gradient Maxwell coil" and named after the famous 19th century physicist James Clark Maxwell, the combination of superconductor and coil can solve many technical challenges faced by previous MLS systems. These systems, which are usually based on solenoids, are also finicky and difficult to maintain over time.

Although this technology may change the rules of the game in medical and biological research, it must first find a way out of the laboratory. If you do not encounter any problems in doing so, this breakthrough in microgravity environment simulation may enable more technologies, creating opportunities for further space research and even production.

Learn more: FSU-low gravity simulator design provides a new way for space research and mission training npj microgravity-a low gravity simulator based on magnetic levitation, with unprecedented large functional volume UT-SpaceX interstellar spacecraft NASA's real artificial Gravity-Microgravity

Main image: 3D drawing of the magnetic system (left) and visualization of its effective field (right) Credit – Wei Guo/ FSU-FAMU College of Engineering

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