Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Undergraduate Research Featured in journal Science

The famous fluid dynamics research from Jacobs School undergrads that may lead to better space toilets was featured in the prestigious journal Science, published by AAAS the science society.

The snappy summary of the project is included in the June 12, 2009 issue in the "random samples" section. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/vol324/issue5933/r-samples.dtl

If you are reading this from a computer at a university or other organization with an institutional subscription to Science, you should be able to follow the link no problem. Below I have excerpted the story for those without this access:

As if cramped quarters and freeze-dried ice cream weren't enough, astronauts face the unpleasant necessity of urinating in near-zero gravity. Apollo crews solved this problem with condom like devices. Current models consist of a vacuum-cleaner-like hose with attachable funnels for males and females—now more sophisticated, but still sometimes uncomfortable and messy.

So 10 engineering students from the University of California, San Diego, have teamed up with thermal and fluids engineer Eugene Ungar of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to develop something better. In January, they were accepted into NASA's Microgravity University, a program that gives undergraduates the chance to conduct experiments on board a plane that performs parabolic maneuvers to simulate ultralow gravity. By April, the students were in the air testing their "pee machine," a contraption that pushes a column of water through a simulated urethra into an acrylic box where they can track the flow dynamics with high-speed cameras.

"We're really going to hit hard with designing and testing different methods for collecting urine in the coming years," says Timothy Havard, student leader of the project. One promising design, he says, is a receptacle filled with a honeycomb network that harnesses surface tension and the velocity of the fluid to capture the urine with minimal splash-back.

And don't forget about the relatead space toilet video I produced:

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