Breakthrough! IISc, ISRO jointly develops 'Modular device' to conduct microbial experiments in outer space

This device helps to track the growth of a bacterium called Sporosarcina pasteurii over several days.

Science    08-Sep-2021
Total Views |
New Delhi, September 08: With an aim to comprehend microbes' behavior in extreme environments, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) developed a modular, self-contained to conduct microbial experiments in outer space.
IISc_1  H x W:
This modular, self-contained device can be used to cultivate microorganisms which in turn, enable scientists to carry out biological experiments even in outer space.
As per the study published in Acta Astronautica, this device helps to track the growth of a bacterium called Sporosarcina pasteurii over several days, with minimal human involvement. This will help us understand how such microbes behave in an extreme environment. This study will provide valuable insights for human space missions like ‘Gaganyaan’ that are set to be launched in 2022.
The new device uses a combination of Light Emitting Diode (LED) and photodiode sensor to track bacterial growth by measuring optical density or scattering of light. It is similar to spectrophotometers used in the lab. It also comprises separate compartments for different experiments. Each of them contains bacteria and nutrient medium can be mixed to kickstart growth.
The data from each cassette is collected and stored independently. Three cassettes are clubbed into a single cartridge, which consumes just under 1W of power. The researchers envision that a full payload will be capable of carrying 12 independent experiments.
“This is a non-traditional environment for the bacteria to grow. It is sealed and has a very small volume. We had to see whether we would get consistent [growth] results in this smaller volume,” says Aloke Kumar, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and another senior author.
In the future, this device can also be adapted for studying other organisms such as worms, and for non-biological experiments.