A female taikonaut is seen inside a capsule on a gravity centrifuge during training. Photo: Xinhua
A female taikonaut is seen inside a capsule on a gravity centrifuge during training. Photo: Xinhua

China will soon build two centrifuges for hyper-gravity experiments that will reportedly be the largest in the world.

The centrifuges will be used to simulate and assist underground and deep-sea exploration, disaster control, waste disposal, the manufacture of new materials, plus training for more taikonauts (Chinese astronauts).

A huge metal arm revolving at extreme high speed can create a force that is hundreds of times of the normal gravity on earth. (Gravity – denoted by the letter “g” – is the force by which a planet or other body draws objects toward its center).

The Chinese centrifuges are designed to each have a capacity of at least 1,500 gravity tons (gt) – 1,500 times the gravity on earth. That would be bigger than the 1,200-gt centrifuge developed by the US Army for the Pentagon.

The 2-billion yuan (US$303 million) project, a joint effort between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Zhejiang University, is slated to be completed in five years.

It is based on a two-arm centrifuge nine meters in diameter that has been in operation at the university for interdisciplinary hyper-gravity experiments. A cluster of laboratories will be built on 89 hectares at Zhejiang University.

People are shown inside the centrifuge lab at Zhejiang University. Photo: Xinhua

Hyper-gravity will enable scientists to simulate a deep-sea environment thousands of meters below the sea, in which they can easily test the mining of natural gas hydrate, or combustible ice, Xinhua quoted an expert in charge of the lab as saying.

One application is to simulate the structural integrity of a dam under extreme conditions to assist designers. “We just need to construct a one-meter high concrete model and put it on the centrifuge with 100-gt to simulate a dam-failure scenario of a 100-meter dam like the push and pressure of a cataclysmic flood,” the expert said.

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