Ever since man began exploring space, there has been a growing interest in understanding and exploiting the effects of reduced gravity environments on material systems influenced by gravitational fields. Now, with the ushering in of the private sector to space exploration, a new dawn of space commercialization is upon us. Envisioned outcomes of this new public-private partnership are the development of novel materials, products and processes that will benefit not only manned exploration and habitation in deep space but also life on earth. However, in order for this expectation to be fully realized, the development of less costly and more accessible microgravity research and development systems must take place. These yet to be developed systems will need to emulate the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) for extended periods of time at acceptable costs, as well as, unlimited accessibility and development capacity.
Due to the market timeliness of this unmet need, researchers at Arizona State University have developed a novel, universal ground-based microgravity platform (UGBMP). This first-of-its-kind, microgravity research, development and manufacturing platform can be tailored to specific industries where high value materials and products can developed and manufactured in space-like environments on earth. The UGBMP enables researchers to evaluate the effects of partial or reduced gravity on physical, chemical and biological systems, as well as, serve as a development testbed to create novel manufacturing processes having more deliberate control of material structures and properties undergoing manufacturing transformations. As the UMP is ground-based, i.e., operational on earth, it is intrinsically more accessible, scalable, reliable and cost efficient than existing reduced-gravity systems, located in space, above ground, or on earth.
• Affordable and customizable, ground-based test platform for investigating and exploiting the behavior of physical and biological processes in reduced gravitational environments and wide range of test conditions:
o Studying physical and biological processes in controlled, reduced gravity environments
o Evaluating device and systems performance in extreme environments, such as, medical devices, 3D printing, hybrid devices, and other material systems
o Test bed for development of novel industrial manufacturing processes for medtech, biotechnology, energy, communications, sustainability and other sectors on earth and in space:
Engineered protein crystals/drugs/biologics/3D tissue/organ systems for precision medicine
Semiconductor fabrication, optical fiber production, formation of smooth and uniform ultra-thin film coatings
Benefits and Advantages
• Operable over a wide range of reduced gravity conditions for extended periods of time
• Scalable to user needs
• Universally accessible
• Affordable compared to space/above-ground systems
• Customizable to diverse material adaptations and transformations
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