The Nanocrystal Get-Away Special (NANOGAS) was a space shuttle GAS payload designed to grow high-quality crystals of an advanced new class of materials called crystalline nanoporous semiconductors. Because of their unique absorption characteristics, these materials could find applications in high-precision lasers, computers and other high-performance electronic devices.
Thirty-eight NANOGAS samples, prepared by Dr. Geoffrey Ozin's research team at the University of Toronto and sponsored by the CSA, were successfully processed in May 1996 onboard space shuttle Endeavor. The samples were treated in a reaction chamber developed by COM DEV Atlantic. An increase in the size and quality of nanoporous crystals can be achieved by conducting these experiments in microgravity, where the gravitational forces are minimal. By studying microgravity-produced crystals, scientists hope to eventually grow improved crystals on earth.
NANOGAS was one of two Canadian Get-Away Special (GAS) experiments that flew on mission STS-77, along with others from the United States, Germany and China. GAS experiments are a low-cost means of putting an experiment on board the Shuttle because they are located in the Cargo Bay and require very little intervention from astronauts. This type of experiment is self-contained, fully-automated and supplies its own power source, data collection and processing.