Growth Cell, Protein Crystal Growth Experiment, Shuttle

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This object is on display in the Moving Beyond Earth exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

This is a single sample cell used in protein crystal growth experiments on the Space Shuttle. It contained proteins in a solution to stimulate crystal growth. Each cell was installed in a temperature controlled chamber in the protein crystal growth equipment. Astronauts activated, monitored by video camera, and deactivated the experiments according to specified temperature and time settings. They also examined samples under a microscope. These experiments enabled researchers to learn which conditions and solutions were best for promoting growth of particular protein crystals. This knowledge is important for medical, drug, and agricultural research.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, actively involved in experiments for Shuttle flights, gave this item and a large set of protein crystal growth equipment to the Museum in 2012.