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Did You Know You Could Burn Water?

Photo: NASA


One of the main objectives of this blog is to highlight the scientific research being conducted on board the International Space Station (ISS). Specifically, I like to highlight how the research can improve life on Earth. This past week, I had quite a bit of training on some of the experiments I will be participating in while I’m on board the ISS. This is the 3rd in a series of blog posts to explain the ISS experiments.

Device for the study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization(DECLIC): In a strange flashback to high school chemistry I vaguely remember that there’s a specific temperature, pressure and density where a liquid and its vapor become identical. When these conditions all exist, the substance is at a state known as the critical point. A supercritical fluid is any substance at a temperature and pressure above its critical point. The International Space Station, DECLIC experiment hopes to lead to a vast improvement in the understanding of how fluids behave near the critical point and further understand fluid compressibility. Water close to its critical point (around 374°C), exhibits a unique behavior that is scientifically very interesting to investigate in absence of gravity. This study will look at the transfer of heat and mass in near-critical water and measure its physical properties. A very informative (but a little goofy) video explaining how the critical point relates to DECLIC (in very easy to understand terms) is here.

In the new environmental technology of supercritical water oxidation (the burning of water) the temperature and pressure are typically above the critical point and it is important to be able to predict the behavior of various dissolved materials. This research could enable the development of supercritical water reactors to treat waste (household waste;
nuclear waste;
and oil fuels) in an environmentally safe manner.

This research could lead to advancements in the field of clean technologies for producing energy and treating waste.

For more information about the DECLIC experiment please see the CNES website at: http://smsc.cnes.fr/DECLIC/index.htm