MAGB hardware concept design


Magnetotactic bacteria

Project Name: Magnetotactic Bacteria in Space

Customer: UK Space Agency - In collaboration with the University of Edinburgh

Objective: Determine the feasibility and preliminary design of an experiment to study the behaviour of bacteria in microgravity


Bacteria are used to do a vast number of things on Earth such as break down waste, make food and drugs, produce minerals and extract minerals from rocks (biomining). In this plethora of industrial, medical and food applications, one of the crucial factors that comes to the aid of the operator is gravity. Gravity allows microbes to settle and thereby to be removed from waste or to be concentrated with their valuable cargo of metals, drugs or other substances. In microgravity, microbes will not settle. New methods of being able to manipulate microbes are needed – methods of ‘fishing’ for microbes. The project is focused on addressing this general challenge of understanding how microbes behave in microgravity and how we might manipulate them.

Two specific objectives in this project are:

1)         A scientific objective: carry out a scientific investigation of how microbes respond to microgravity using a specific type of bacterium that naturally produce iron – the ‘magnetotactic’ bacteria. The scientific question to be addressed is: can bacteria respond directly to gravity?

2)         A technological objective: develop miniature modular microbial chambers that can be used to test different conditions for microbial manipulation.


Kayser Space was responsible for planning all aspects of the mission on commercial suborbital platforms and, specifically, the preliminary design of a miniature microbial growth unit able to perform a pre-determined scientific protocol autonomously in space, that included complex mechanisms for bacteria injection and magnetic isolation.


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