The PARTICLE VIBRATION project, also known as T-PAOLA (Thermovibrationally-driven Particle self-Assembly and Ordering mechanisms in Low grAvity) project is a collaboration between the University of Strathclyde (UoS) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA). It is led by Dr. Marcello Lappaa (Full) Professor at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE, UoS). He also leads the thermal-convection group within the James Weir Fluid Laboratory at the University of Strathclyde.

A set of dedicated experiments have been executed in microgravity conditions (on board the International Space Station (ISS)).

The project has its roots in a theory, originally formulated in 2014 and further elaborated and refined over subsequent years (2016201720192020 and 2022), by which solid particles dispersed in a liquid can be forced to occupy certain positions or form very regular patterns or structures if certain conditions are met. 

Under normal gravity conditions, particles separate from the fluid through flotation or sedimentation. Once gravity is removed, new techniques can be implemented to control these systems.

In the frame of this project, the astronauts on the ISS and the ground science team (through remote commanding) have used dedicated equipment and hardware in a long series of tests that involved heating and shaking various liquid-particles mixtures.

The tests required three months of activity.  

The main objective was the definition and testing of a new contactless manipulations strategy for the advanced control of materials, which in the liquid state (before being solid) consist of droplets, particles or other inclusions dispersed in a liquid matrix.

Studies of such a kind are very relevant and useful as they make it possible to test new theories in space and validate new methods to develop materials that are of much higher quality that those we can create on Earth, and that can be used to improve production of all sorts of materials crucial to our health and growth, relevant examples being  new, types of metal alloys, non-metallic conductors, plastics, and “macromolecular” substances that can be used to produce drugs and medicines. 

The Experiment
The Hardware
The Physics

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