Students will test unique mechanism at European Space Agency

Experiment in Noordwijk will check out the equipment under hypergravity conditions.

PhD students from Masaryk University’s Faculty of Science will carry out a scientific experiment at the research centre of the European Space Agency in the Netherlands. On a large diameter centrifuge a high overload of up to 20g can be achieved. Photograph: ESA.

Experimenting with materials in different types of gravity is – according to experts – a very challenging and still not fully explored area of basic physics research. PhD students from Masaryk University’s Faculty of Science will carry out a scientific experiment at the research centre of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

In September they will test a system called GRAVARC, which may pave the way for the preparation of new materials with unique attributes. So far the students have been able to examine the equipment under normal gravity conditions; now the system will be checked out in hypergravity.

Experimenting with materials in different types of gravity is – according to experts – a very challenging and still not fully explored area of basic physics research. “GRAVARC allows the preparation of carbon nanocomposite materials that will be analyzed later. These include carbon nanotubes, nanoparticles and fullerenes, and they attract great attention from the scientific community due to their possible use in mechanics, microelectronics and medicine,” says Vít Kudrle of the Department of Physical Electronics, who is an expert guarantor of the project.

The GRAVARC project, whose authors are students of plasma physics Jiří Šperka and Pavel Souček, has qualified for the Spin Your Thesis! Campaign, which is held annually by the European Space Agency and allows university students to conduct a scientific experiment in the ESA Research Centre in the Netherlands.

On a large diameter centrifuge a high overload of up to 20g can be achieved – if there were such an gravitational overload on a man weighing 80kg, he would feel a weight of approximately 1.6 tons. “There are not many devices which are able to generate such a high overload while scientific experiments are in operation,” says Jiří Šperka.

Experts from the Department of Physical Electronics completed the basic build of the GRAVARC system in June. “This equipment combines unique control electronics, a high-voltage discharge part and several diagnostic methods in a compact unit that is able to withstand high overload,” says Jiří Šperka.

The device was first examined in ordinary gravity conditions by PhD students in a laboratory at Masaryk University. In September it will be moved to Noordwijk, where it will be built into a centrifuge gondola and unique measurements in hypergravity will begin.

The project is supported and funded by Masaryk University, the ESA and the Czech Space Office.