Ring-Sheared Drop (RSD): Microgravity Module for Containerless Flow Studies

Shreyash Gulati, Aditya Raghunandan, Fayaz Rasheed, Samantha A. McBride, Amir H. Hirsa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Microgravity is potentially a powerful tool for investigating processes that are sensitive to the presence of solid walls, since fluid containment can be achieved by surface tension. One such process is the transformation of protein in solution into amyloid fibrils; these are protein aggregates associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In addition to solid walls, experiments with gravity are also subject to influences from sedimentation of aggregates and buoyancy-driven convection. The ring-sheared drop (RSD) module is a flow apparatus currently under development to study formation of amyloid fibrils aboard the International Space Station (ISS). A 25 mm diameter drop of protein solution will be contained by surface tension and constrained by a pair of sharp-edged tubes, forming two contact rings. Shear can be imparted by rotating one ring with the other ring kept stationary. Here we report on parabolic flights conducted to test the growth and pinning of 10 mm diameter drops of water in under 10 s of microgravity. Finite element method (FEM) based fluid dynamics computations using a commercial package (COMSOL) assisted in the design of the parabolic flight experiments. Prior to the parabolic flights, the code was validated against experiments in the lab (1 g), on the growth of sessile and pendant droplets. The simulations show good agreement with the experiments. This modeling capability will enable the development of the RSD at the 25 mm scale for the ISS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
JournalMicrogravity Science and Technology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Applied Mathematics


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