NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program

University of Minnesota

Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Department

2003 Solids Microgravity Team

Effects of Microgravity on Random Close Packing Arrangements - Part II

The purpose of this project is to provide accurate data concerning the random packing of spheres.   It is believed by many scientists that the random closed packing of a collection of spheres is a universal quantity.  By packing a collection of spheres in a box we can model the packing of particles of composite material.   Conducting this experiment in a zero gravity environment will allow us to measure the state of the system without the biasing influence of Earthís gravitational field.  The spheres will be packed at multiple speeds which will allow us to determine the relationship between wall speed and average packing volume ratio at the systemís maximally jammed state.  Thus far, most of the research done on this topic has been through theoretical mathematics and computational methods.  This is most likely due to the fact that gravitational effects of earth on the randomizing of the spheres make physical experiments difficult.  The data we collect will be compared to data collected from computational models, which require zero gravity, and data collected from last years experiment.

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