The KEU-AT Experiment Unit is a device designed for supporting seed germination and plantlet grow in microgravity. Developed for Arabidopsis thaliana seeds, it is suitable for plant germination related studies.

It is equipped with reservoirs for chemicals (water, fixatives) and one culture chamber allowing seed germination. The scientific protocol is operated manually by the astronaut. At the end of the experiment the KEU-AT Experiment Unit can be stowed at controlled temperatures (freezer). After stowage and re-entry on Earth, plantlets can be recovered and analyzed by microscopy techniques as well as molecular biology-based approaches for genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic studies.



Fluidic systems 2
Fluidic actuators 3 each fluidic system (6 in total)
Fluidic actuators type PLUNGERS
Fluidic reservoirs  3 each fluidic system (6 in total)
Culture chambers  2
Levels of Containment (LoC) 2
Fluidic System Volume ask for information
Automatic control NO
On-Board Electronic Controller NO
Experiment Unit size  ≈ 82x39x29 mm
Experiment Unit mass ≈ 146 grams (fully assembled)
Fits into  IBEX (1 LoC)
Compatible Controller Not Applicable




Manned Flight Carrier (Soyuz - STS)

QUALIFIED FOR Manned Flights – Use on ISS



So far, the KEU-AT Experiment Unit has been used to study the germination and growth of seeds and plantlets of Arabidopsis thaliana.

 Each KEU-AT Experiment Unit (EU) is made of a semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymer with excellent mechanical and chemical resistance properties, biologically inert. Cross contamination among the chambers is avoided due to proper sealing gaskets. The EU itself provides two Levels of Containment (LoC) that is increased to three by using IBEX container. The experiment protocol required actions are manually performed by one crew member by using a dedicated available qualified tool. On request, the hardware can be made fully automatic with minor modifications.

 The fluidic concept carries out the KEU-AT experimental protocol which relies on three main steps, namely Arabidopsis thaliana seeds hydration, seeds germination, and plantlets fixation.

 On the whole, the actions performed by the fluidic system are led by manual linear actuators that push the plungers inward displacing the fluids (Activator or Fixative) contained into the chemicals reservoirs (Activator or Fixative reservoir) towards the Culture Chamber (CC). A bar shaped tool is committed to perform both manual activation (green end) and manual fixation (red end) as well. Each tool end can operate solely on the activator or the fixative reservoir. Short channels connect the reservoirs to the CCs so that seeds are watered or fixed (see figures below).




To guarantee fluid injections within the CC a dedicated inner system of channels and valves leads the air behind the plungers’ reservoirs.





Klaus Palme (University of Freiburg)

2011 ArabidopsISS PI Stefano Mancuso (University of Firenze)

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