Published: 
Jun 16, 2021

NASA Selects Proposals to Provide New Insights from Openly Available Data

NASA’s Physical Sciences Research Program selected five ground-based proposals in response to the research announcement “Use of the NASA Physical Sciences Informatics System – Appendix G.” These five research projects, involving recognized experts in the fields of combustion science, complex fluids, fluid physics, fundamental physics, and materials science, will use data contained in the PSI system and build on prior reduced-gravity research to advance fundamental research in the physical sciences.

Photo of male astronaut wearing green latex gloves and handling an experiment underneath a clear plastic tent.
"Use of the experimental data in the NASA Physical Sciences Informatics (PSI) system will allow many scientists to participate in physical science reduced-gravity research conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) to promote the advancement of further research.” Image Credit: NASA

Researchers will investigate important problems in the five research areas with existing data from NASA’s Physical Sciences Informatics (PSI) system. The online database contains data from completed physical science reduced-gravity flight experiments conducted on the International Space Station, Space Shuttle flights, free flying spacecraft, commercial cargo flights to and from the space station, or from related ground-based studies.

One of the selected studies will take advantage of the E-FIELD Flames experiment to simulate the behavior of a small diffusion flame under the influence of an externally applied electric field in microgravity. Once validated, the simulations can be extended to Earth gravity. This is expected to lead to a better understanding and eventually control of hydrocarbon flames under the influence of electric fields, which can be used to extend flammability limits, reduce emissions, prevent instability and blowoff, as well as modify soot production. This project is a collaborative effort between the University of California, Irvine, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and is led by Prof. Yu-Chien Chien (University of California, Irvine). 

Another selected investigation plans to use micromechanics-based computer modeling to analyze scanning electron microscopy images from the MICS (Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification) experiment to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of microstructure on the resulting mechanical properties of cement. Based on the cement binders used in the microgravity experiment, this study will provide the first simulation results to predict the  performance of various cement binders fabricated in microgravity. The effort is expected to lead to recommendations on microstructures with improved properties, an important consideration for future construction of shelters and habitats using on-site materials on the surface of the Moon and Mars. The project, a collaboration between Pennsylvania State University and NASA Glenn Research Center, is led by Prof. Namiko Yamamoto (Pennsylvania State University).

The selected proposals are from five institutions in five states, with the total combined award amount of approximately $988K during a two-year period.

The Physical Sciences Research Program is managed by the Biological and Physical Sciences Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate. This program conducts fundamental and applied physical sciences research, with the objective of pioneering scientific discovery, enabling space exploration, and providing benefits on Earth. The program furthers fundamental research by investigating the fundamental laws of the universe and physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. The program also conducts applied research, which contributes to the basic understanding underlying space exploration technologies that will further our return to the Moon and our journey to Mars and beyond. Both have led to improved space systems or new products on Earth.

Below is the complete list of the selected proposals, principal investigators, and their organizations:

  • Yu-Chien Chien, University of California, Irvine, “PeleLM CFD of Ion Driven Winds from Diffusion Flames
  • Ivan Christov, Purdue University, “Validation of a CFD Model for Gas-Liquid Flows in Packed Bed Reactors to Enable Thermo-Fluid Analysis in Microgravity
  • Nikolaos Gatsonis, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, “Multiscale Computational Modeling of Dusty Plasmas Near Space Surfaces”
  • Eric Weeks, Emory University, “Thermal fluctuations of colloidal gels
  • Namiko Yamamoto, Pennsylvania State University, “Micromechanics-based modeling of cement solidified in the microgravity