The current project is a particular stage of a long term international ESA project ICAPS (Interaction in Cosmic and Atmospheric Particle Systems), which is endorsed for International Space Station (ISS) with a tentative launch date in 2014. It belongs to rear astrophysical research in man-made conditions.
The experimental idea is to produce dense clouds with millions of micrometer-sized particles per cubic centimetre at gas pressure around 1 mbar and to study cloud evolution – kinetics of particle agglomeration and three-dimensional structures of growing extended agglomerates. Initial stages of proto planetary matter formation thus will be investigated experimentally. On the ground, at such low pressure the particles fall down too quickly to form even small agglomerates. Extended agglomerates, would they grow, may sustain their own weight only in microgravity.
We solve the main current problem of the overall ICAPS project – development of dust cloud trap. New processes and instrumentation for dust particle manipulation in gases are worked out, such as cloud confinement, squeezing, and canalizing. At current stage we perform microgravity research and technical verification in the Bremen Drop Tower facility. Additional outcomes of the project are foreseen in the development of scientific ground instrumentation and, potentially, some industrial aerosol particle manipulators.
Bremen Drop Tower campaigns: one-two campaigns each year.
International Space Station: tentative launch date is 2014.
The first working prototype of the thermophoretic trap was developed and tested on April 2010 under short duration microgravity conditions of the Bremen Drop Tower.
The flight tests resulted in :
proof of possibility to trap the cloud consisting of millions of particles using thermophoretic force for dynamic balancing
rapid formation of gigantic agglomerates of micrometer-sized particles (up to hundred thousand monomers in agglomerate)
observation of different complex patterns and phenomena in free floating heavy loaded dust clouds.