Designing a reliable plant growth system for crop production in space requires the understanding of pore fluid distribution in porous media under microgravity. The objective of this experimental investigation, which was conducted aboard NASA KC-135 reduced gravity flight, is to study possible particle separation and the distribution of discontinuous wetting fluid in porous media under microgravity. KC-135 aircraft provided gravity conditions of 1, 1.8, and 10-2 g. Glass beads of a known size distribution were used as porous media; and Hexadecane, a petroleum compound immiscible with and lighter than water, was used as wetting fluid at residual saturation. Nitrogen freezer was used to solidify the discontinuous Hexadecane ganglia in glass beads to preserve the ganglia size changes during different gravity conditions, so that the blob-size distributions (BSDs) could be measured after flight. It was concluded from this study that microgravity has little effect on the size distribution of pore fluid blobs corresponding to residual saturation of wetting fluids in porous media. The blobs showed no noticeable breakup or coalescence during microgravity. However, based on the increase in bulk volume of samples due to particle separation under microgravity, groups of particles, within which pore fluid blobs were encapsulated, appeared to have rearranged themselves under microgravity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Soil Science