ISS’s New Reactor Uses Sound Waves to To Form Materials Attainable Only In Space

The Space-DRUMS system will make its way up to the International Space Station in one of these ExPRESS Transportation Racks. NASA

This dodecahedron-shaped device currently on board the International Space Station may resemble a landmine, but in fact it serves quite an opposite purpose: within, scientist Jacques Guigne hopes to use sound waves to cleanly manipulate a brew of ingredients into custom materials that can only be made in the unique conditions of space.

Dubbed Space-DRUMS (the Dynamically Responding Ultrasonic Matrix System), Guigne’s ball is essentially a furnace filled with argon gas. It uses sound beams to precisely manipulate raw materials into things like porous glass ceramics (used in semiconductors) with molecular arrangements only possibly in weightless conditions.

The reactor is a collaborative project between Canadian scientist Jacques Guigne and NASA, and the module seen here was just delivered to the International Space Station.

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Previous attempts at manufacturing in microgravity have yielded tiny samples just millimeters in diameter, but Guigne’s acoustic suspension system can cank out baseball-sized samples. Guigne plans to charge “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to manufacture a single sample in his space furnace, according to Discovery.