The BCAT-C1 experiment studies nano-scale particles dispersed in liquid, known as a colloidal suspension, commonly found in such commercial commodities as paint, electronic polishing compounds and food products. These suspensions have the unique property that the particles phase separate (like oil and water) and the particles self-assemble into crystals that interact strongly with light (like opal). Photographing these samples in microgravity allows the measurement of these processes while avoiding the effects of particle sinking due to gravity. This study allows the development of new insights into this important material process.Principal Investigator(s)
ZIN Technologies Incorporated, Cleveland, OH, United States
Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Canada
Canadian Space Agency (CSA)Sponsoring Organization
Information PendingResearch Benefits
Information PendingISS Expedition Duration:
May 2012 - September 2014Expeditions Assigned
31/32,33/34,35/36,37/38,39/40Previous ISS Missions
The BCAT series of investigations began on ISS Expedition 8.
The focus of this investigation is specifically on the effect of phase separation on crystal growth. On Earth, gravity causes the colloids to settle, making such a study particularly difficult. Performing these experiments in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station allows scientists to study growth of much larger structures, and, thus, maximize the extent to which the behavior can be explored. Improved understanding of these processes may lead to more refined manufacturing processes and commercial products. The competition between a phase separation process and an order-disorder transition remains largely unstudied and offers an opportunity to observe some fascinating behavior. The overarching goal of all these experiments is to develop the key knowledge to help make colloidal engineering a reality. In addition, this experiment should help scientists understand some of the fundamental properties of colloid-polymer mixtures to further improve the commercial use of such systems.
Information PendingEarth Applications
BCAT-C1 samples are contained within a small case the size of a school textbook. The experiment requires a crew member to set up on the Maintenance Work Area (MWA) or on a handrail/seat track configuration, set up EarthKAM hardware and start the EarthKAM software to take digital photographs of each sample at close range using the onboard Kodak DCS760 camera. Scripts for running the EarthKAM camera can be uploaded from earth to control the experiment once it is running. All samples also require that manual photographs (at least initially) be taken by an astronaut. The pictures are down-linked to investigators on the ground for analysis.Operational Protocols
1. Crew sets up the historical Video camera to document the BCAT-C 1 operations as performed on-board the ISS.
2.Crew sets up all hardware on MWA of seat track rails (Slow Growth Sample Module, DCS760 Camera, flash and EarthKAM software with SSC Laptop.
3. Crew homogenizes (mixes) the sample(s) and takes the first photographs manually. This helps them optimize the setup and shows that the samples were initially fully homogenized when publishing results later.
4. EarthKAM software automates the rest of the photography session over a 3-day to 3-week period.
5. Crew performs a Daily Status Check once a day (when time is available) to assure proper alignment and focus.
6. At the completion of the run, a crew member tears down and stows all hardware (30 minutes).
NASA Image: ISS032E022445 Image of BCAT-C1.
NASA Image: ISS032E022512 - BCAT-C1