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Meet the teams

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ESA / Education / Fly Your Thesis!

Three teams of postgraduate students flew their experiments during the 2012 'Fly Your Thesis!' campaign. Here is an introduction to the team from Essen, Germany.


Dustbrothers team – Levitation of sintered glass plates by Knudsen Compressor effect


University Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Endorsing professor Gerhard Wurm
Universität Duisburg-Essen
Team Caroline De Beule
Markus Küpper
Christoph Dürmann
Dustbrothers experiment
Dustbrothers experiment

The aim of this student experiment is to investigate the levitation of highly porous sintered glass plates by the Knudsen Compressor effect.

This poorly understood effect is thought to be important in the early phases of planet formation. It is possible that it is at least partially responsible for the movement of dust away from the star in a protoplanetary disc of matter.

Dustbrothers Team
Dustbrothers Team

The team investigated the effect by creating a thermal gradient across a plate of porous sintered glass, placed between hot and cold plates that were heated using Peltier elements. The difference in temperature caused a force to be exerted on the glass plate. In normal gravity, the force would have been too small to overcome the weight of the plate itself. In microgravity, however, these forces were large enough to levitate the glass plate, allowed the team to accurately examine the phenomenon.

The apparatus was enclosed in a vacuum chamber and, while in flight, the motion of each sintered plate was captured using a video camera. Accelerations in the aircraft, which during the microgravity phase were less than 10-3 times Earth’s gravity, were recorded simultaneously using an accelerometer. The temperature of the plates as well as the pressure inside the vacuum chamber were also monitored. Following the campaign, the team will combine the data. By relating the video footage to the accelerometer data, the team will be able to deduce the gravitational strength at which the sintered plate loses contact. With this information, they can then calculate the magnitude of the force caused by the Knudsen Compressor effect.

Read more about this experiment on the ERASMUS Experiment Archive.

Learn more about this experiment in the team's final report.

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