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Two teams composed of Master and PhD students from the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics have been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to perform their experiments under higher levels of gravity inside the Large Diameter Centrifuge. Sponges in Space and Team Glacier proposed their experiments for Spin Your Thesis!, a European science competition from ESA and the gravitational research organisation ELGRA.

The Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC) at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) at Noordwijk in the Netherlands. Photo: ESA

Sponges in Space

Masters students Martijn Bart, Didier de Bakker and PhD student Brittany Alexander study Limnology and Oceanography and proposed to study the energy demands of spicule arrangement in the body of freshwater sponges. Sponges are filter feeders and one of the first steps during hatching resembles setting up a tent where the spicules (tent poles) help to inflate the sponge body to provide space for pumping and filtering water. The team will vary the level of gravity during sponge hatching to influence the energy demands during this process and study its effect on the morpohology of the sponges.

Team Glacier 

Darko Radakovíc and Rachael Chambers, Masters students in Earth Sciences, proposed an experiment to study the influence of gravity on the flow properties of an ice-analogue material. These flow experiments under different gravitational accelerations can provide insights in the applicability and limitations of analogue glacier experiments for glacial flow phenomena on planets such as Mars.

The teams’ supervisors Dr Jasper de Goeij and Dr Erik Cammeraat are happy with the selection of their teams. ‘Facilities such as the LDC centrifuge offer a unique research environment for performing new science and trying out experiments that are not possible in our laboratories in Amsterdam’, explains De Goeij. Both teams are slated to run their experiments later this year in September. They will spend the next months preparing their experimental set-ups. 

Spin Your Thesis! Competition

The Spin Your Thesis! programme aims to give university students and the opportunity to perform scientific or technological research under gravitational accelerations higher than the daily ‘1g’. Under conditions of hypergravity various processes in biological, biochemical, microbiological, physical, material sciences, fluid sciences, geology, and plasma physics fields can be studied. These conditions can vary from 1-20g and can be created inside the 8 meter Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC).

Read more about Spin Your Thesis!

European Space Agency (ESA)

European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA)