Support Us Button Widget

A Louisville science experiment flies to the International Space Station

This is ground control to UofL.

A metal box with the Louisville Cardinals logo in a complicated scientific chamber.

The Nano Particle Haloing Suspension experiment being fitted in the Microgravity Science Glovebox.

Photo by NASA

Look up, LOU. Above your head, 250 miles to be exact, a nickel-plated aluminum box slightly bigger than a breadbox is traveling through the Earth’s atmosphere at 17,500 miles per hour — and it started the journey in Louisville.

The Nano Particle Haloing Suspension experiment, a University of Louisville (UofL) project aiming to make solar panel technology more efficient, is aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The science

The Nano Particle Haloing Suspension experiment studies the behaviors of “large” microparticles (which are still microscopic) and nanoparticles, which are so small they can’t even be seen by a microscope.

Measuring the particles on Earth is hard because the reactions happen so fast even microscopes and computers have a hard time tracking them. But the microgravity environment in space keeps the particles in suspension much longer.

The experiment started on Earth with three UofL capstone mechanical engineering students, two other undergraduates, and UofL mechanical engineering professor Stuart Williams.

“I’m basically doing paperwork,” Williams said. “The students did 95% of the work.”

The self-contained, remote operated experiment is now plugged into a device called the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), which Williams described as a “glorified chemical fume hood.”

The experiment launched aboard the 30th Commercial Resupply mission to the ISS on Thursday, March 21 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here’s what else made the journey with it:

  • 1,201 lbs of crew supplies
  • 198 lbs of spacewalk equipment
  • 2,502 lbs of science investigations

But, the Nano Particle Haloing Suspension wasn’t the only Derby City project on board.

A second Derby City project

In January, a Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis research project by the LOU-based National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF) was sent to the ISS on Axiom Mission 3. The NSCF also sent miniature 3D models of the human brain to the ISS aboard the same rocket as the Nano Particle Haloing Suspension experiment.

a collection of red brain cells

These brain cells will spend 30 days aboard the ISS to help study primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Photo by NASA

Bonus: You can sign up for alerts when the ISS passes over Derby City and wave at the Nano Particle Haloing Suspension experiment as it whizzes by.

More from LOUtoday