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QUT microgravity tower attracts global scientific community

Scientists from NASA, Europe and Australia will beat a path to Queensland University of Technologys Carseldine campus when the southern hemispheres only microgravity tower is completed later this year.

The microgravity tower will allow scientists to study, in a reduced-gravity environment, many diverse phenomena in many fields including nanomaterials, new materials, fire-safety, metallurgy, biotechnology and combustion.

The towers designer, Associate Professor Ted Steinberg of QUTs School of Engineering Systems, said that when it was finished the tower would be one of only three or four such facilities in the world and would make QUT a global leader in research on the effects of gravity in many research disciplines.

Already the microgravity tower has attracted research partners in both industry and government from several places in Europe and the USA, Professor Steinberg said.

One important proposed research programs relates to supporting the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) that will replace the Space Shuttle.

Painted green and reaching 30m - the same height as the QUT campuss signature gum trees - the towers unobtrusiveness would belie its true value to research, he said.

The tower works by placing the experimental material inside a drop capsule that, when dropped from the top of the tower, allows the experiment to be in free fall (or zero gravity) for two seconds, enough time for scientists to make crucial observations about the phenomena being studied.

The drop capsule is brought to rest on an inflated airbag that allows the experiment to be slowed down and readied for another drop. Scientists are able to analyse the result when the drop is completed, Professor Steinberg said.

Professor Steinberg said the microgravity tower would be an attractive and cheap alternative to the usual methods of zero-gravity testing.

To do this type of research without a
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Contact: Ted Steinberg
t.steinberg@qut.edu.au
Queensland University of Technology
6-Jun-2007


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