Acoustofluidics-based Multifunctional Manipulation of Micro- and Nanoparticles under Reduced Gravity

PI: Zhenhua Tian, Like Li (Co-I), Mississippi State University

Colloids (tiny particles suspended in a liquid) occur in many different forms (e.g., milk, muddy water, shampoo, and medicine) in our daily lives. Recently, colloids have shown great potential for additive manufacturing, drug delivery, and constructing colloidal superstructures. The overall objective of this research is to develop and demonstrate novel acoustofluidic platforms that enable two unique capabilities: (i) multifunctional control (e.g., concentration, patterning, and alignment) of micro/nanoparticles, and (ii) printing polymer matrix composites containing patterned micro/nanoparticles under reduced gravity.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems and Manufacturing
Problem Statement

Scientists of the NASA Science Mission Directorate conducted years of research on colloids in microgravity. However, few studies have investigated the effects of acoustic waves on colloids under reduced gravity. Few platforms can actively control the concentration, pattern, assembly, and alignment of tiny particles in liquids under reduced gravity. On the other hand, engineers at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center are very interested in developing in-space manufacturing technologies for long space voyages. To fabricate polymer matrix composites reinforced/functionalized with tiny particles, such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and silicon carbide (SiC) whiskers, techniques that can arrange particles suspended in polymer resins are critical. However, no 3D printing platforms have been demonstrated to arrange tiny particles in resins and print polymer matrix composites containing patterned/aligned particles under reduced gravity.

Technology Maturation

The research will be conducted during parabolic flight using previously developed acoustofluidic platforms upgraded and optimized for manipulating particles under reduced gravity. The data collected under different gravity conditions will be analysed and compared to understand the mechanisms of acoustically manipulating particles in liquids under reduced gravity.

Future Customers

This project aligns with the Physical Sciences Program of the NASA Science Mission Directorate by contributing to the research on colloids in microgravity. Moreover, this project aligns with the Advanced Manufacturing Program of the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    EPSCoR22 (Aug 2022)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Parabolic

Development Team

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