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Gravitational Relativistic Physics (GRP)
Low Temperature and Condensed Matter Physics
    PRESENT: Ongoing Research

Launch Date: April, 2005
Mission Duration: 4.5 months
Principle Investigator: Dr. Martin Barmatz, JPL


MISTE image

What We Already Know:

Scientists describe the Microgravity Scaling Theory Experiment (MISTE) as a "big, fundamental experiment," because it has the potential to gather a broad range of basic information about the elemental behavior of all materials.

All materials, under the right conditions, become a fluid or gas. There is a unique thermodynamic state, called the "critical point," where the liquid and gas phases have the same density and thus become indistinguishable. Many thermodynamic quantities go to infinity, or zero, as this liquid-gas critical point is approached. Advanced theoretical models-called scaling theories-have been developed to explain these unusual phenomena. Dr Kenneth Wilson won a Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering an elegant mathematical method to explain these phenomena.

What We Hope to Find Out:

It is possible to study this critical point more precisely in microgravity. Working in space avoids the stratification of the sample that gravity causes.

The MISTE experimental cell is comprised of a coffee cup-sized copper cylinder containing a series of thermally-conducting plates with lots of small holes. Copper is used because it is a very good heat conductor and helps stabilize the temperature of the fluid. The cell is filled with liquid helium-3, which has the lowest temperature for its liquid-gas critical point of all fluids. The low temperatures permit using superconducting instruments so precise measurements of pressure, temperature and density can be performed. During one of the proposed series of experiments, the sample is heated with a specific pulse of energy to determine its heat capacity. Extraordinarily accurate sensors will measure these minute temperature changes.

How We'll Conduct Our Experiment:

Each time a measurement is performed, a parameter is then changed, so that a wide range of variables can be observed in what is called the "critical region" around the "critical point." The experiment will involve manipulating various combinations of pressure, temperature, and density, then measuring the fluid's properties. The results of these studies in space will be used to test the predictions of Dr. Wilson's theory and other theories.

Additional Information:

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