ESA's Research on Growing from Solutions in Microgravity: The Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility and Future Prospects with the Solution Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility

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V. Pletser; S. Mazzoni; O. Minster; L. Potthast (2011), JBIS, 64, 330-334

Refcode: 2011.64.330
Keywords: Microgravity research, ISS, Columbus, Protein crystallization, Zeolites, Colloids, Solutions, Diagnostics

The Protein Crystallization Diagnostics Facility (PCDF) is an instrument developed by Astrium under an ESA contract to observe and study nucleation and crystallisation processes of molecules from solutions in long duration microgravity experiments on board the International Space Station using advanced diagnostics. The experiment PROTEIN, performed with PCDF, aimed at unravelling physical processes and relating the formation of defects in crystals to their growth conditions. This PCDF experiment was performed on the ISS in 2009, integrated in the European Drawer Rack. The PCDF mission was an important milestone and a basis for future experiments.

On the occasion of the 2004 Announcement of Opportunity, new proposals in crystallisation and growth have been selected, which targeted a broader range of systems like synthetic zeolites and model colloidal systems. The preparatory activities within the relevant Topical Teams identified a common need for scattering techniques, ranging from traditional state of the art dynamic and static light scattering to sophisticated multi-speckle techniques based on multipixel sensors.

This led to the idea of upgrading the process unit of PCDF with a set of diagnostic techniques and interfaces adapted to investigations on zeolites, and to study the possibility of developing a new instrument for studying colloidal structures. The feasibility study of these instruments, called respectively Solution Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility (SCDF) for zeolites and for colloids, has been recently completed, aiming at a consolidated instrument design and development with a plan to upload it in ISS tentatively in 2013.

A general overview of present and future activities in aggregation and crystallisation are presented. Starting with the first results from the PCDF mission, the planned future experiments in SCDF will be discussed along with a detailed description of the instrument capabilities.

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