Characterization of fluid distribution through a porous substrate under dynamic g conditions.
Dedicated electronic hardware has been constructed to monitor fluid distributions inside a plant rooting/nutrient substrate (Rockwool). With this hardware the effect of dynamically varying gravity states, from enhanced 2g to reduced 0.01g, on solution distributions inside a cube of substrate was monitored aboard the NASA KC-135 reduced gravity research aircraft. The 8 vertices and the center of the cube were used to place sinusoidal voltage sources (electrodes), emitting different fixed frequencies, inside the substrate. Using another set of 9 electrodes the voltage fields were detected across all frequencies. Since the substrate cannot conduct, those frequencies which appeared on any detector (sensor) were indicative of the conductive liquid pathways inside the substrate. An analysis algorithm was developed to visualize the fluid distributions under g-level conditions. Even though the duration of the experiment was short, gravity induced changes in fluid position were readily and reliably detected. Since fluids carry the nutrients necessary for plant growth these data and techniques can lead to the development of a uniform nutrient supply system supportive of optimal plant growth in space.