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Developing physical models to understand the growth of plants in reduced gravity environments for applications in life-support systems

Abstract : Challenges triggered by human space exploration of the solar system are different from those of the International Space Station because distances and time frames are of a different scale, preventing frequent resupplies. Bioregenerative life-support systems based on higher plants and microorganisms, such as the ESA Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) project will enable crews to be autonomous in food production, air revitalization, and water recycling, while closing cycles for water, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon, during long-duration missions and will thus become necessary.The growth and development of higher plants and other biological organisms are strongly influenced by environmental conditions (e.g. gravity, pressure, temperature, relative humidity, partial pressure of O2 or CO2). To predict plant growth in these non-standard conditions, it is crucial to develop mechanistic models of plant growth, enabling multi-scale study of different phenomena, as well as gaining thorough understanding on all processes involved in plant development in low gravity environment and identifying knowledge gaps.Especially gas exchanges at the leaf surface are altered in reduced gravity, which could reduce plant growth in space. Thus, we studied the intricate relationships between forced convection, gravity levels and biomass production and found that the inclusion of gravity as a parameter in plant gas exchanges models requires accurate mass and heat transfer descriptions in the boundary layer. We introduced an energy coupling to the already existing mass balance model of plant growth and this introduced time-dependent variations of the leaf surface temperature.This variable can be measured using infra-red cameras and we implemented a parabolic flight experiment, which enabled us to validate local gas transfer models in 0g and 2g without ventilation.Finally, sap transport needs to be studied in reduced gravity environments, along with root absorption and leaf senescence. This would enable to link our gas exchanges model to plant morphology and resources allocations, and achieve a complete mechanistic model of plant growth in low gravity environments.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 1:18:18 PM
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  • HAL Id : tel-01983345, version 1

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Lucie Poulet. Developing physical models to understand the growth of plants in reduced gravity environments for applications in life-support systems. Chemical and Process Engineering. Université Clermont Auvergne, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018CLFAC026⟩. ⟨tel-01983345⟩

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