Developing high-tech LED lighting systems for use in ‘space gardens’ to grow microgreens capable to supply the astronauts’ diet with highly nutritious substances. This is the goal of the project SOLE (“Optical System of LED lighting and hyperspectral control for the cultivation of plants for space applications”), comprising ENEA, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the company G&A Engineering, funded by the Lazio Region as part of the ‘LAerospaZIO’ call for the promotion of technology transfer in the aerospace sector.
The innovative aspect of the project lies in research and development of the best “light recipes”, that is, combinations of different wavelengths LEDs most effective in inducing the plant to produce bioactive substances in an automated and controlled system. The goal is to reduce human intervention times, avoid any contamination from manipulation and allow you to monitor the state of plant growth, even remotely.
In addition to defining the LED lighting qualitative and quantitative parameters to optimize productivity, the Biotechnology Laboratory of the ENEA Casaccia Research Center will deal with the response of plants to artificial environments and the selection of plant species capable of adapting to hydroponic conditions, to add fresh food to supplement the astronauts’ diet.
ASI will define the design requirements of the demonstrator plant in the areas of application of greatest interest for the next human space exploration programs, while G&A Engineering will be involved in the engineering design and development of the cultivation plant in a controlled environment.
“The exploration of space beyond low earth orbit depends on the possibility of producing and recycling primary resources on site, being less dependent as possible from supplies from Earth; particularly as regards fresh food, necessary to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of astronauts ”, pointed out Luca Nardi, head of the project SOLE for ENEA. “Hence the importance of being able to grow plants in space, using systems designed to reliably fill that purpose,” Nardi said.
“The expected outcomes will be of great interest also for subsequent terrestrial applications”, pointed out Angiola Desiderio, ENEA researcher at the Biotechnology Laboratory. “In fact, the need to find alternatives to traditional cultivation techniques, which can move plant production even in extreme environments like urban areas, but also arid, contaminated or climatically adverse areas, is increasingly urgent in order to support growing requests for fresh and quality guaranteed food ”, Desiderio said.
For more information please contact:
Luca Nardi, ENEA – Biotechnologies Laboratory –Casaccia Research Center, firstname.lastname@example.org
Angiola Desiderio, ENEA – Biotechnologies Laboratory –Casaccia Research Center, email@example.com
Projects “LAerospaZIO”: https://materiali.sostenibilita.enea.it/projects/laerospazio