Advances in Substrates
Work at NASA has focused heavily on hydroponics for many years, since plants are considered crucial for the hopes of prolonged spaceflight. Flourishing plants would aid astronauts in many critical processes such as food production, oxygen release and waste recycling. Hydroponic systems have traditionally been complex, however, so NASA researchers started looking for a substrate that would eliminate many of those hassles. This led them to explore an option known as zeolites, which are naturally occurring minerals with honeycomb structures that can be modified to house essential nutrients until plants are ready to consume them.
This development in slow-release fertilization is now being applied commercially in places like golf courses and playing fields. Zeoponic products are better at delivering nutrients to plants, so much less is lost to surrounding soil and groundwater. Plants also thrive more when zeolites are present, so plant biomass production goes up.
Learn more about other green technologies below.
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- Knier, Gil. "How Do Photovoltaics Work?" NASA. (March 3, 2011) http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2002/solarcells/
- NASA's Spinoff Database. (March 3, 2011) http://www.sti.nasa.gov/spinoff/spinsearch?BOOL=AND&ALLFIELDS=&CENTER=&BOOLM=AND&MANUFACT=&STATE=&CATEGORY=Consumer&ISSUE=&Spinsort=ISSUED
- Oberg, James. "Satellite turns 50 years old … in orbit!" MSNBC. March 17, 2008. (March 3, 2011) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23639980/ns/technology_and_science-space/
- "Slow-Release Fertilizers." NASA Technical Reports Server. (March 3, 2011) http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20020064968_2002103729.pdf
- Space Technology Hall of Fame Web site. (March 3, 2011) http://www.spacetechhalloffame.org/index.html
- Stayton, Robert. "Sludge Busters." Popular Science. February 1987. (March 3, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=sgEAAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA43&ots=rbkuO8R9TF&dq=san%20diego%20water%20hyacinth&pg=PA43#v=onepage&q=san%20diego%20water%20hyacinth&f=false
- Steffen, Josh. "Water Hyacinth." Cleveland Botanical Garden. Aug. 26, 2009. (March 3, 2011) http://www.cbgarden.org/blog/index.php/2009/08/26/water-hyacinth/
- "Zeolite: The Versatile Mineral." Zeoponix. (March 3, 2011) http://www.zeoponix.com/zeolite.htm
NASA's HiDyRS-X camera was built for rocket science tests. Learn more about the rocket camera in this HowStuffWorks Now article.