Prototype: Alphys

Introduction: Prototype: Alphys

As we explore outer space, mankind is destined to settle in another planet such as Mars. Something that is preventing this destiny from taking place is the scarcity of food in outer space. NASA has reached out to the community in order to get various designs on gardening in the international space station. My team and I have created a design to tackle the issues created by low gravity in outer space. Low gravity can influence the air flow and the water flow, which then causes a disruption on the growth development of the plant. Our design aims to solve the issues such as how air and water will be circulated and used effectively in the setting of the build.

Supplies:

  • Transparent Plastics
  • 4 Mini Ventilation Fans
  • Red, Blue, White and Green LED Lights
  • Plant Pillows
  • 2 Thin Rectangular Water Tanks (Capacity of 2 L or less)
  • 8 Lettuce Plants

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Step 1: "The Box" Garden

Our design of the box solves the issue of capacity which is dealt by adding more plants. Increasing the number of plants from six to eight. The box is made out of transparent plastic, double-layered, each layer includes 4 plants (w/ 4 plant pillows), 2 ventilation fans, LED lights, and a water tank. Our model includes two accessible windows on each horizontal end of the box. On each layer, the water tank is placed underneath the plant pillows at the very bottom. One ventilation fan on each horizontal end of the box and LED lights on top. The main purpose of our model is to have an adequate amount of space to be able to contain eight plants and two water tanks.

Step 2: The Water Tanks (Blue)

Both water tanks are a rectangular shape with an accessible hole to promote water flow. Each water tank is capable of holding 1 liter of water. The water tanks, located underneath the plant pillows, reserves as a water source for the plants. Micro-gravity is a major factor here because when the holes are unlatched (through a button or via Bluetooth), the gravity allows the water to flow upward and get absorbed by the plant pillows. After allowing a certain amount of water eject, the system will detect and the holes will be closed. It automatically saturates the plants every 3 days. It is also thin enough to solve the space capacity issue and it utilizes micro-gravity as a benefit to hydrate the plants.

Step 3: Ventilation Fan

There are 2 ventilation fans on each side. It is located on the horizontal end of the box. The fans are required for air circulation to regulate the temperature inside the box and provide fresh air for the plant. The fan we are going to use is a mini propeller fan. Propeller fans are most commonly used for dilution ventilation or cooling. It has the ability to move large amounts of air if there is any resistance. These fans solves the issue of air flow in outer-space.

Step 4: The LED Lights

Plants require light energy in order for growth of food and nutrients, NASA's space station uses LED lights as a source of light energy instead of sunlight. In each layer of the box, there are 4 LED lights: Red, Blue, Green, and White. Blue light helps encourage leaf growth but when mixed with red light, it allows plants to blossom. Green and White LED lights are required for plant growth. The LED lights are located at the very top of both layers.

Step 5: Plants

There is going to be a maximum of four lettuce plants on each layer. We are using plant pillows as a soil growth medium to create additional space. Plant pillows also allow better water absorption compared to the usual medium growths. The plant pillows are located on top of each water tank, so the plants can absorb the water released by the water tank.

Step 6: Conclusion

Therefore, our prototype that we established will likely be effective if used in the International Space Station and could provide the necessities required in order for it to be successful in the trip. Our double-layered prototype that we assembled has a maximum capacity of eight plants that could be stored into, two water tanks that will be placed underneath the plant pillows, LED lights placement on the ceiling to promote plant growth, and two ventilation fans placed on the side of each layer of the model. These features that we have decided on as a group will maximize benefits is a reliable piece with its ventilation and water flow properties.

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