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John O | September 2018

Space station researchers studying the complicated movement of fluids in space

By Josh Perry, Editor


Researchers from the University of Stuttgart (Germany) Small Satellite Student Society (KSat e. V.) aboard the International Space Station have begun studying fluid movement using the power of magnets rather than pumps with mechanical, moving parts, as a means of minimizing the risk of mechanical failures on long space missions.


The PAPELL investigation team from the KSat e. V., which is conducting a study of ferrofluids in microgravity. (University of Stuttgart)


The PAPELL experiment uses ferrofluids, which contain small iron-oxide particles that can be magnetized, and electromagnetic fields that move the ferrofluids through various conditions. Sensors and cameras are monitoring the movement.


According to the report from NASA, “Reliable, efficient pumping and other fluid transportation tasks are particularly important in the design of next-generation space vehicles. The ability to move fluids smoothly from one place to another in microgravity could eliminate many potential wrinkles in space exploration.”


Researchers are exploring whether microgravity will increase or decrease a magnetic pump’s performance and the exact behavior of liquid in these conditions.


“In addition to advancing the technology for design of this new class of pumps in space, PAPELL may help solve other space-based fluid transport problems,” the article added. “A low-wear, low-vibration, and low-maintenance pumping system could improve the performance and expected lifetime of space stations, satellites and space telescopes.”

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