European Space Agency project will investigate how liquids behave in zero gravity

Understanding how liquids such as water, rocket fuel and blood behave in zero gravity is fundamental for improving conditions for astronauts and furthering space science research.

For years, the European Space Agency (ESA) has been investigating evaporation with the aim of learning more about fluids physics in extreme conditions.

Despite being a common phenomenon there are a great number of unanswered questions about the underlying mechanisms of droplet evaporation in space.

Now, researchers from Loughborough University will lead two projects that will examine how liquid substances spread and evaporate over porous and deformable surfaces, such as human skin.

The work done at Loughborough will be continued aboard the International Space Station.

It hoped the results will help improve processes such as Dried Blood Sampling (DBS) – when a blood droplet is deposited on a porous material, usually filter paper.

The MAP Evaporation project will run for two years and is part of the ESA's ongoing research into Enhanced Evaporators and Drop Evaporation.

Dr Anna Trybala, of Loughborough's School of Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering, said: “The European Space Agency has a long-term interest in physical science and especially in the kinetics of spreading and evaporation of liquids.

“More than 90% of any rocket is liquid fuel, which has a tendency to behave in a very special way under tough space conditions.

“On top of that, astronauts on-board use a lot of liquid products – for example, food, drinking liquids, cleaning liquids.

“We plan to investigate simultaneous spreading and evaporation of pure liquids, liquid mixtures and nano-suspensions deposited on smart porous structures.

“As smart porous structures, we consider thin porous layers (such as human skin, bunch of hairs, porous coatings with sintered structures) and thick porous layers (such as porous activated carbon, porous structures built up by nano-particles).

“The results can be used for thermal management in space and the development of home care products.”


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/199

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.