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Released April 1, 2005

SPACE STATION ASTRONAUT TO PERFORM SOUTHERN MISS CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR'S EXPERIMENT

 

HATTIESBURG – Dr. John A. Pojman will travel to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Saturday, April 2, to help Cmdr. Leroy Chiao perform Pojman's experiment on the International Space Station.

It will mark NASA's seventh run of the Miscible Fluids in Microgravity (MFMG) experiment, designed by Pojman, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Southern Mississippi.

The MFMG experiment will test how miscible fluids - those that completely dissolve in each other - interact without the interference of gravity. Pojman will be able to talk to Chiao in real time, watch him perform the experiment and offer advice.

Immiscible fluids, like oil and water, exhibit something called "interfacial tension" because of the different ways that each type of molecule pulls on another. "This interfacial (surface) tension is what allows a water skeeter to walk on water," Pojman explained.

The experiment will test a timeworn but unsupported theory. "One hundred years ago, a scientist named Korteweg predicted that miscible fluids could act like immiscible fluids until they had diffused and become uniform," Pojman said.

"Although there has been much theory and some provocative experiments during the intervening century, no definitive experiments have been performed. This simple experiment will be a step toward a complete test of Korteweg's hypothesis."

If a stream of one immiscible fluid is injected into another in weightlessness, the stream will break into drops - a phenomenon called the Rayleigh-Tomotika instability. Pojman said his test will determine if the same breakup occurs with two miscible fluids by injecting honey into water and observing if the honey stream breaks into drops.

"Because the honey is denser than water," he said, "the stream sinks in the water when we try to do the experiment on earth."

However, the experiment does have some down-to-earth implications, Pojman said. "The models used to simulate the experiment provide information on the fundamental interactions between molecules."

Since the first runs were performed in March 2004, Pojman's collaborators, Vitaly Volpert in France and Nick Bessonov in Russia, have performed computer simulations based on those early results. "We determined that we need to let the experiment run longer," said Pojman. "We changed the procedures, and NASA accommodated our request."

This will be the third crewmember to perform Pojman's experiment. "I briefed Cmdr. Chiao from my kitchen in New Orleans in December. The call was routed from the Space Station to a satellite to White Sands Missile Range to Houston and then to my home. It was a thrill for my three-year-old son and my wife to be able to listen to the conversation," Pojman said.

For more information, contact Pojman at (504) 296-7224.

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April 19, 2005 12:33 PM