IISc-ISRO develop device to conduct microbial experiments in outer space

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have developed device to conduct microbial experiments in outer space.

Highlights

  • This modular, self-contained device can be used to cultivate microorganisms which in turn, enable scientists to carry out biological experiments even in outer space.
  • This study was published in Acta Astronautica. Researchers showed how this device can be used to activate and track the growth of a bacterium called Sporosarcina pasteurii for several days with minimal involvement of human.

Significance of the study

This understanding of how these microbes behave in extreme environments will provide valuable insights for human space missions like ‘Gaganyaan’ that is set to be launched in 2022.

Background

Scientists have been exploring the use of lab-on-chip platforms, in recent years, which combine several inputs into a single integrated chip to conduct experiments. However, there are other challenges to design such platforms for outer space as compared to the lab.

About the new device

The new device uses a combination of Light Emitting Diode (LED) and photodiode sensor, which track the bacterial growth by measuring optical density or scattering of light. It is similar to spectrophotometers used in the lab. It also comprises of separate compartments for different experiments. Each compartment or ‘cassette’ have chamber where bacteria and nutrient medium can be mixed to kickstart growth.

How data is collected?

Data from each cassette is collected and stored separately. Three cassettes are clubbed into single cartridge, which consumes less than 1 watt of power. According to researchers, a full payload that could go in a spacecraft will comprise four such cartridge which are capable of carrying 12 independent experiments.

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