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Rock Candy Crystals

Rock Candy Crystals

The NSL Satellites Ltd-Rock Candy in Space experiment allows for the growing of sugar crystals in microgravity and compares them with sugar crystals formed on the ground. In microgravity, crystals can be grown larger and with better symmetry than those on Earth.

Customer: NSL Satellites Ltd
Research: Rock Candy Crystals
NanoRacks Facility: Internal NanoLab
Mission Duration: 09/2013 – 03/2014
Mission Status: Complete
More Info: From NASA website

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Rock Candy in Space tests the quality and difference between Earth and Space grown sugar crystals.
  • NanoRacks-NSL Satellites-Rock Candy in Space aims to enhance youth involvement in research and innovation in science, technology, engineer and mathematics (STEM) education.
  • NanoRacks-NSL Satellites-Rock Candy in Space chose sugar crystals since they are “easy” growers thus giving a high chance of success.

Crystals are used in everyday life on Earth and in space, from accurate frequency makers, to accurate clock timing devices and pharmaceutical medicines. Crystals can be found in nature but are also a manmade component. It is interesting to investigate the quality and size of crystal growth under microgravity conditions as opposed to on ground ones. The three dimensional characteristic could change in space microgravity.

The students have performed sugar crystal growing in the classroom successfully and now have transferred the experiment into the MixStix for the NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Rock Candy in Space investigation to be activated on the International Space Station. The students predict more symmetric and larger crystals will form in microgravity than on Earth

Communications satellites are among the many users and producers of high-quality crystals, which are used in satellite frequency oscillators. Results demonstrate whether microgravity affects the three-dimensional structure of sugar crystals. This provides insight into crystal growth and stability in microgravity, improving space-based communications.

High-quality crystals are important for drug development, accurate timekeeping, biology research, and more, but complex, man-made crystals can be difficult to grow on Earth. Comparing microgravity-grown crystals with those grown on Earth provide new insight into crystal formation, benefiting a wide range of industries and people on Earth.

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