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Biofuels Crops in Zero Gravity?

March 10, 2010
Growing biomass in space? That’s right. Right now an experiment is underway on the space station to see if microgravity can affect the growth of Jatropha curcas, a tropical flowering plant.

According to Popular Science ,

“This first-ever experiment to test a possible biofuel in microgravity aims to improve cell structure, growth and development in the Jatropha curcas plants. An identical set of samples that represent the experimental control are located at the University of Florida's Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

Crops grown in space have already been used to produce space beer, courtesy of the Sapporo brewery company. But the possibility of improving biofuel stock courtesy of a space ride might have far greater implications for the world, assuming that the crops do respond well to microgravity.”

What does this mean for the future? Space farms aren’t right around the corner. Popular Science concludes,

“Sadly, we won't see any space farms really get going until launch costs go way down. Perhaps the new era of commercial spaceflight might also help usher in that future vision.”