Can duckweeds be raised in space? Thailand investigates
Thailand and the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) are studying the possibility of raising duckweeds in space using a box that resists hypergravity.
Synchrotron Light Research Institute (SLRI) beamline scientist Suttipong Wannapaiboon said on Sunday that the invention came about when Mahidol University's Faculty of Science asked the institute to cooperate on the Hypergravity Experiment Series (HyperGES).
He explained that the university is studying the response of the duckweed to simulated hypergravity conditions and had asked the institute to design a hypergravity-resistant box.
“The box must have an appropriate size for installation inside a hypergravity simulator at the ESTEC headquarters in the Netherlands,” he noted.
SLRI mechatronics engineer Mongkol Phanak said the institute has produced a prototype box for raising duckweed under gravity four times higher than that of the Earth.
He said the acrylic box meets the researchers’ demands, explaining that the aluminium frame helps boost durability and has space available to attach a light-emitting diode (LED) to boost duckweed growth.
“After finishing the design, we analysed its durability using a computer system before going on to produce it,” he said, adding that Tatpong Tulyananda, a lecturer at Mahidol University's Faculty of Science, and his team are experimenting in the Netherlands to study plants that are appropriate for space exploration and space farming.
The cooperation between Thailand and ESTEC is part of an international space exploration project.