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Technical Paper

Effect of Plasticizer Type on the Mechanical Behavior and Microstructure of Edible Peanut Protein Films

The use of three different plasticizers sorbitol, glycerol, and polyethylene glycol were investigated in the production of edible peanut protein films. Eight films of each plasticizer type were prepared with plasticizer to protein ratios of 2:5 (28.6%), 3:5 (37.5%), 4:5 (44.5%), and 5:5 (50%). The effect of plasticizer content on the mechanical properties was studied. Sorbitol-plasticized films exhibited maximum strength and modules at 44.5% plasticizer content. For glycerol-plasticized films, with the increase of plasticizer content, both the elastic modulus and the strength of the films decreased. Polyethylene glycol-plas-ticized edible peanut protein films were not evaluated mechanically because they were too brittle to be tested. Correlation between the mechanical properties and the morphological features of these films was established. The sorbitol- and glycerol-plasticized films demonstrated promising results towards future food packaging and preservation applications.
Technical Paper

Sweetpotato Growth Using a Microporous Tube System with Lunar Simulant Medium

Several plant growth systems have been tested for crop production in microgravity and lunar/Mars environments in support of NASA's Advanced Life Support Program and long-term human space missions. These systems have incorporated such design features as the nutrient film technique (NFT), microporous plates, microporous tubes, and expandable boundary chambers and have been developed and used to support sweetpotato production at Tuskegee University. In the present research, the performance of different sweetpotato cultivars in a microporous tube system with lunar simulant medium was studied. The lunar simulant is an inert aggregate with an average particle size of about 3 mm. Buried in this solid medium is a microporous tube. Nutrient solution is circulated through the microporous tube under a slight negative pressure. This pressure is controlled to allow a slight seepage from the tube with some accumulation of water in the solid medium, but no free water.
Technical Paper

Microporous Membrane Nutrient Delivery Systems for Sweetpotato in Microgravity

Long-term manned space missions will require life support processes including food production. Porous plate and tube membrane systems have been identified to have potential for crop production in a microgravity environment. Of several systems tested, a stainless steel plate membrane system with a porous medium underneath has proven to be superior in terms of the uniformity of nutrient solution distribution. Several trials with sweetpotatoes, showed successful plant growth, with reduced foliage and storage root yield as compared to the nutrient film technique (NFT). These results can be attributed to reduced nutrient solution availability compared to NFT. It is expected that design improvements can increase sweetpotato yield..
Technical Paper

Engineering Design Analysis of a Microgravity Chamber with Expandable Boundaries for Root Crops

A closed nutrient delivery chamber with expandable boundaries has been developed to support the growth of root crops, with potential applications in microgravity. The chamber is completely enclosed, separating the root zone from the foliage zone with a padded sealant through which the plant stem passes. The expandable boundary chamber (EBC) allows for expansion of the root zone volume, through longitudal pleats, as the plant grows. Two units have been evaluated with a trial crop of sweetpotato (Tuskegee Univ. breeding clone TU-82-155) for 120 days in a greenhouse environment. Storage root yield per plant in the EBC averaged 1.33 kg in comparison to 0.3 kg for the conventional Nutirent Film Technique (NFT) grown plants. This excellent yield warrants further design refinement and serious consideration of the system for earth use and microgravity applications.