Can We Grow Plants in Outer Space?

140424 plant-space

Researchers used an Agilent Bioanalyzer and microarrays to test the impact of hypergravity on plants

In his recent novel “The Martian,” author Andy Weir tries to present a scientifically accurate portrayal of a human astronaut stranded on the planet Mars.  One of the ways the astronaut attempts to survive is by planting and growing Earth potatoes in the Martian soil.  But would this really work?

The plants that we are familiar with today evolved to complete their entire lifecycle in normal Earth gravity.  But could Earth plants complete their life cycle under altered gravitational conditions?  This question is increasingly intriguing as scientists look ahead at human life-support systems for long-term space travel.

Previous experiments have shown that plants can complete an overall seed-to-seed lifecycle in space.  But plant life goes through two distinct phases: vegetative growth and reproductive growth.  Our knowledge of hypergravity’s impact on reproductive growth is still very limited, especially at a molecular level.

Researchers at the University of Toyama and Kanazawa University in Japan recently conducted a study using arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard.  (Arabidopsis has long been used to study plant biology, and was the first plant to have its entire genome sequenced.)  Microarray analysis was used to identify genes whose expression may be modulated in response to hypergravity.

After subjecting plants to forces 300 times those of normal gravity for 24 hours, the scientists found a five-fold inhibition of pollen development and germination.  Their conclusion was that hypergravity substantially changes the expression of several genes involved in the signaling and biosynthesis of plant hormones.

The scientists used an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer System and Agilent Gene Expression Microarrays for their research.


For more information go to:

Effects of hypergravity stimulus on global gene expression during reproductive growth in Arabidopsis

The Martian (novel)

Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer System

Agilent Microarrays

Filed Under: All, Life Sciences
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Agilent Celebrates the Environment and Earth Day

April 22 marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day.  This event was first organized in 1970 to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet, as well as to highlight the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.  In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 as “International Mother Earth Day.”

140422 earth 2

April 22 is Earth Day

Agilent instruments are used in numerous environmental applications, including analyzing water quality, measuring indoor air quality, responding to disasters and identifying emerging contaminants.  Agilent itself continually ranks among “The World’s Most Sustainable Companies” through its social and environmental practices.

“We are proud to recognize corporate citizenship as a fundamental value,” says Agilent President and CEO Bill Sullivan.  “We are proud to support our customers, investors, and communities in making our world a better, healthier, and more sustainable place to live.”

According to the Earth Day Network:

  • Recycling all of your home’s paper and cans can result in a reduction of 850 lbs. of carbon emissions per year.
  • Recycling one four-foot stack of newspaper would save a 40-foot tall tree.

For more information go to:

Earth Day 2014

Forbes: The World’s Most Sustainable Companies of 2014

Agilent Environmental Solutions

Agilent Corporate Citizenship

Filed Under: All, Corporate, Sustainability
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Agilent Salutes Milestones in Electronics

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HP’s first product: a precision audio oscillator

April is a noteworthy month in the history of electronics.  Some milestones (in chronological order):

  • On April 2, 1618, mathematician and physicist Francesco Grimaldi was born.  He was the first scientist to study the diffraction of light, inventing the word “diffraction.”  Later physicists used his 1665 work to prove that light is a waveform.
  • On April 30, 1897, physicist Sir Joseph John Thomson announced the discovery of the first subatomic particle, the electron.  He also invented the mass spectrometer.
  • On April 14, 1954, physicist Gordon Teal built the first silicon transistor.  (Previous transistors had been made of germanium.)  Teal also made break-through advancements in infrared technology and digital signal processing.
  • On April 23, 1941, electrical engineer Ray Tomlinson was born.  In 1971, he would implement the first email system on ARPAnet, inventing the “@sign” protocol that is still used today.
  • On April 3, 1973, engineer Martin Cooper made the first phone call using a hand-held mobile phone.  He is considered “the father of the cell phone.”

The year 2014 is also noteworthy for two reasons.

First, 2014 is the 75th anniversary of Hewlett-Packard, Agilent’s predecessor company.  In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established HP in a Palo Alto garage with $538.  Their first financially successful product, a precision audio oscillator, was innovative for using an incandescent light bulb as a resistor to stabilize the output.

Second, in 2014 Agilent’s electronic measurement business is expected to launch as an independent company, Keysight Technologies.

“HP’s and Agilent’s long success in electronic measurement helped fund their computer, printer, life sciences and diagnostics businesses,” says Keysight President and CEO Ron Nersesian.  “Our decision to create a standalone electronic measurement company is, in many ways, like returning to the core focus that has made us strong.”


For more information go to:

Agilent Technologies Reveals Name of Electronic Measurement Spin-Off Company

Agilent Technologies to Separate into Two Industry-Leading Public Companies

Agilent Company History

Filed Under: All, Electronic Measurement
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