Astronauts have a pretty rough time living in a microgravity environment. Sure, at first there’s exhilaration at the whole floating experience, but then one has to learn to pee into a vacuum cleaner and season food with liquid salt. And as for a morning espresso with that perfect crema? Well, that was pure fantasy, until a team at Portland State University developed an ingenious 3D-printed cup that lets astronauts sip their morning latte in style. Check out a video of the cup in action below!
Developed by the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at PSU, the zero gravity espresso cup is driven by some smart geometry, which explains its rather funky appearance. “The shape of the container can passively drive fluids to desired locations without moving parts – exploiting the passive forces of wetting and surface tension,” Professor Mark Weislogel explained to Phys.org.
PSU’s first zero gravity coffee cup was unveiled last year – much to the appreciation of several astronauts, we imagine. The geometry of that cup was able to override the tendency of liquids to take on a floating globular form; holding them together by surface tension, and allowing astronauts to sip from—and indeed toast with—regular cups.
But espresso is a somewhat different beast. As Phys.org explains “A shot of espresso is composed of a complex, low-density colloid of emulsified oils. The earth’s gravitational pull causes these oils to rise to the surface producing the aromatic foam [crema] enjoyed by coffee aficionados across the globe.” And so, this new espresso cup uses geometry to not simply contain a pourable cup o’ joe, but a something that will provide the delicate, balanced flavor and texture of shot of espresso.
Six of these cups will be sent up to the International Space Station via SpaceX in February 2015. And with 3D-printing now being tested on the space station, it’s entirely possible that in time, astronauts will be able to print their very own cups in space.
Lead image via Shutterstock