This entry was originally posted on July 25, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on


One of the main objectives of this blog is to highlight the scientific research being conducted on board the International Space Station. 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. I will try to explain all of them in a series of blog posts (One even involves burning water – Did you know you could burn water?)

The first experiment that I want to describe is an ISS experiment called InSPACE-3 or Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions-3 (that’s a mouthful so from now on let’s just call it InSpace-3).  This experiment investigates a new class of “smart materials” referred to as MR fluids.  These normally stable fluids undergo a dynamic transition to a solid within milliseconds after applying an external magnetic field.  Chain-like microstructures formed by the particles in these fluids give them this unique property.

MR fluids have been incorporated in actively-damped shock absorbers in automotive suspension systems to improve the safety and performance of their vehicles by providing the ability to change a car’s suspension system in response to changing road conditions.  The Dongting Lake bridge in China actually utilizes MR fluids in its cable dampers to counteract gusts of wind.  Engineers are also exploring the potential use of MR fluids in seismic dampers to protect buildings during violent earthquakes.  The results of the InSPACE-3 experiment should lead to a vastly improved understanding of the mechanical behavior of these amazing fluids.

For more information on InSPACE-3, click: