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Microgravity Sci Technol. 2002;13(3):14-21.

Theory and simulation of buoyancy-driven convection around growing protein crystals in microgravity.

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MARS Center, Napoli, Italy.


We present an order-of-magnitude analysis of the Navier-Stokes equations in a time-dependent, incompressible and Boussinesq formulation. The hypothesis employed of two different length scales allows one to determine the different flow regimes on the basis of the geometrical and thermodynamical parameters alone, without solving the Navier-Stokes equations. The order-of-magnitude analysis is then applied to the field of protein crystallization, and to the flow field around a crystal, where the driving forces are solutal buoyancy-driven convection, from density dependence on species concentration, and sedimentation caused by the different densities of the crystal and the protein solution. The main result of this paper is to provide predictions of the conditions in which a crystal is growing in a convective regime, rather than in the ideal diffusive state, even under the typical microgravity conditions of space platforms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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