Hydrofuge Plant Chamber
The Lakewood High School Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment aids the expansion of research surrounding deep space travel and helps in the determination of whether plant growth chambers are an adequate food source in space ship environments.
Many previous investigations have demonstrated that plants can grow in microgravity, but root rot continues to be a problem in microgravity due to the retention of deoxygenated water remaining on the roots.
The centrifuge spins water off the roots and the contact wetting angle built into the chamber wicks the water to the pump using capillary action. This increases the amount of oxygenated water that comes into direct contact with the plants roots. Results from this student-designed investigation benefit future plant growth efforts on the International Space Station and long-duration space missions.
The overall purpose of NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge Plant Chamber Experiment (NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge) is to demonstrate, in a low gravity environment, the ability to grow plants and to overcome all of the impediments in this process. NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge has many goals. The investigation aims to overcome the behavior of water in microgravity and how it creates root rot in a plant system.
Water collects or clumps together in microgravity and the centrifuge concept of NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge spins the plant to dissipate the collection of water around the roots that oversaturates them and does not allow for the oxygen the roots need. The plant and water chambers contain 80° angles in order to allow the water to collect away from the plant when in the chamber and make it simpler to pump the water from the plant chamber to the water chamber and vice versa. The investigation seeks to prove the use of the contact-wetting angle (80°) in collecting water.
The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by a plant in an enclosed space in a three-month period in microgravity is measured. Data is collected throughout the experiment and the amount a basil plant grows in an enclosed space in microgravity is measured. NanoRacks-The Hydrofuge displays the innovation of high school students and allows them to be a part of the NASA program.
The data set is not analyzed until the experiment returns to earth, and the data gathered are stored on the NanoRacks Embedded System Integration (NESI) board. The hypothesis is that the plant survives and grows to fit the area it has been allotted, the CO2 does not suffocate the plant and the water successfully moves away from the roots during the watering process. The main source for data is the camera and all pictures are analyzed post-flight.
Efficient plant growth chambers will be required to grow food for future missions to the moon, asteroids or Mars. This investigation studies whether a centrifuge spins away enough water to prevent root rot and encourage healthy plant growth. The investigation gathers data from the plant’s closed environment, collecting information on carbon dioxide, air circulation, and photographic evidence of plant growth during three months. Results benefit future plant cultivation efforts on the International Space Station and next-generation spacecraft.
This investigation contributes basic research on plant growth and care, including automated processes for monitoring and ensuring plant health that could be used on Earth. Students from Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colorado, designed the investigation, providing a unique educational opportunity and a deeper connection to the space program.
Read more about Lakewood High School NESI.