Ambassador High School’s Pollen Propulsion is a Microgravity Environment provides insight as to whether or not pollen grains can be propelled across a short distance in a microgravity when a small fan is activated. The goal of this investigation is to determine if pollen can be transported from plant to plant in a microgravity environment.
These experiments determine if pollination is possible in a microgravity environment. Pollination is the transfer of pollen for the fertilization and reproduction of plants. Bee pollen (1 g) is chosen (Module-20 S/N 1002) due to availability and a larger grain size (80-95 μm) that is easier to detect with a camera. Pollen is stored in a pollen containment unit until the experiment is initiated on the International Space Station (ISS).
Within the MicroLab, is a pollen containment unit that stores pollen, a vibrator (which is within the pollen containment unit), a fan, a pollen receiver, and a camera with a light-emitting diode (LED). The experiment is initiated when the lid of the pollen containment unit is opened by a Dual Metal Carbonite Gear (HS-35HD Ultra Nano Servo from Servo City 33035S).
Pollen is allowed to float out of the pollen containment unit for a period of time, and then a fan (Mighty Mini TubeAxial 3V 17 mm by 3 mm from 259-1533-ND Digikey) is turned on to move the pollen to a pollen receiver that is covered with double-sided adhesive tape. Pollen that sticks onto the adhesive tape is photographed by the MicroLab camera, and photos are analyzed when data is received.
The vibrator (from RadioShack 2730107) is activated at a specific time to ensure that pollen doesn’t get stuck in the pollen containment unit. Programing and electronic interface circuitry manages the fan, servo, vibrator, LED, timing duration, and photo frequency.
High school students designed the investigation, which increases interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through a connection to the space program. The investigation may also reveal additional information about the mechanics of natural bee pollen movement on Earth.
Read more at Valley Christian ISS Program.