Ohio State students Michael Snyder and Stephen Levine’s most recent research project is sitting aboard the International Space Station collecting data.
Snyder, a graduate student in aerospace engineering, and Levine, a third-year in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, worked with students in the chemical and biomolecular engineering department to make the project safe for space exploration. The project will test a substance used in fuel cells and jet engines.
The device, which fit into a 10-cubic-centimeter container, launched on a Japanese space vehicle on Jan. 22, and arrived at the ISS on Thursday.
Snyder said the project is the first by OSU students to make it to the ISS.
“Watching the launch live was my favorite part of the experience,” Snyder said.
The experiment will observe the effect of gravity on the growth of ceria nanoparticles. Joan Slattery Wall, OSU engineering department spokeswoman, said ceria is used in jet engines and fuel cells for next-generation vehicles.
The experiment will help determine whether reduced gravity allows ceria to act as a better catalyst.
“It was great doing something completely different from class,” Levine said. “Testing is much better than solving problems.”
The experiment, to be conducted on the ISS, involves bending capsules containing cerium nitrate and sodium hydroxide. The process is much like cracking open a glow stick. The 24 sticks will then stay on the station as the chemicals combine.
The sticks are scheduled to leave the ISS and head back to Earth aboard a Russian spacecraft on March 16.
The entire program, from the design to outer space flight, took less than a year.
“For space, that’s remarkably fast and puts the program within reach for students,” said Jeff Manber, managing director of Houston-based NanoRacks, producer of the CubeLab container in which the experiment has traveled to the space station, in an e-mail.
This experiment is the most recent addition to OSU’s space history. According to the United States Air Force website, Maj. Robert H. Lawrence, an OSU doctoral graduate in 1965, was the first African-American astronaut.
John Glenn and Nancy J. Currie are two other influential astronauts from OSU. Richard M. Linnehan, another OSU alumnus, took one of university President E. Gordon Gee’s bow ties aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 2008.
“I’m thankful to be at Ohio State,” Snyder said. “Not every college offers this opportunity.”