Researchers from 5 Japanese universities have developed a plant growth facility (Space Plant Box) for seed to seed experiments under microgravity. The breadboard model of the Space Plant Box was fabricated by assembling subsystems developed for microgravity. The subsystems include air conditioning and water recycle system, air circulation system, water and nutrient delivery system, lighting system and plant monitoring system. The air conditioning and water recycle system is simply composed of a single heat exchanger, two fans and hydrophilic fibrous strings. The strings allow water movement from the cooler fin in the Cooling Box to root supporting materials in the Plant Growth Chamber driven by water potential deficit. Relative humidity in the Plant Growth Chamber can be changed over a wide range by controlling the ratio of latent heat exchange to sensible heat exchange on the cooling fin of the heat exchanger. The transpiration rate was successfully measured by circulating air inside the Plant Growth Chamber only. Most water was recycled and a small amount of water needed to be added from the outside. The simple, air conditioning and water recycle system for the Space Plant Box showed good performance through a barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) growth experiment.
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