The Microplate Reactor: A Device for Fluid Transport and Actuation In Space

M. Lewis, C. Carruthers
NanoRacks, LLC,
United States

Keywords: fluids, transport, mixing, microgravity, space, ISS, NASA


The reactor microplate is a device for fluid transport and actuation for in the microgravity environment (i.e. space). Using the standard Well Microplate form factor, this device provides researchers control over when to begin the microgravity project/experiment once the reactor microplate reaches orbit. The fundamental concept behind the microplate reactor is a separation of materials intended for zero-gravity research, generally fluids or gels, between two chambers. The materials are mixed once an astronaut intervenes to push in a plunger, by use of a small needle pin, which opens up a passage between the reaction and activation/deactivation chambers. In order to meet NASA safety requirements, all plungers are designed with triple O-ring seals between the chambers and the external environment to provide triple-redundant containment from release of potentially hazardous substances. Activation and deactivation chambers are functionally identical; though deactivation chambers are included, for example, in experiments where customers may want to keep biological samples that have been inoculated into the main chamber from the activation/deactivation chamber. The device flew to the International Space Station on Space-X CRS 17, and is currently being used in a microgravity experiment.