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John O | July 2018

UAB researchers double contract with NASA to create cold-stowage technology

By Josh Perry, Editor


According to a recent article from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), NASA has doubled its investment in the UAB Engineering Innovation and Technology Development (EITD) research group with a multi-year contract worth $50 million to provide and maintain cold-stowage units for the International Space Station (ISS).


UAB researchers are developing cold-stowage technology for use on the International Space Station. (Wikimedia Commons)


Researchers at the school have worked with NASA on technology for the ISS for more than a decade, according to the article, and have developed freezers that maintain temperatures as low as -160°C to store scientific samples or act as refrigerators or freezers for the crew.


In addition to its contract with NASA, the research group is also working with the Center for Advancement of Science in Space on a $3.6 million project for two rapid-freeze technologies for the ISS (the first is scheduled for launch later this year) and a $6.2 million project to design two -80°C freezers for the space station.


The article explained, “EITD is one of the nation’s leading developers in cold-stowage hardware for use in microgravity and exploration. Current cold stowage projects include the Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator, General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator, Polar and Iceberg.”


MERLIN units, built at UAB since the early 2000s, provide thermal control from -20°C to 48.5°C. They are used as incubators for scientific experiments as well as to support Crew Galley Operations.


GLACIER is a cryogenic freezer/refrigerator system that provides a generic interface to accommodate multiple biological sample types and volumes that require thermal control between -160°C and 4°C while on the ISS.


Polar is the most recent of the cold-stowage units designed by the EITD with capabilities of maintaining temperatures as low as -80°C.


Iceberg is currently in development under a $6.2 million contract given in 2017 to design and build a new set of -80°C freezers to support the increased need for cold stowage on the ISS.

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