After a year of work, Portland State researchers have developed a cup that will allow astronauts to successfully sip espresso (and other warm, frothy drinks) in low-gravity environments, according to the university.
The typical coffee mug does not work in such environments, so astronauts suck most liquids out of a plastic bag. Researchers started working on the open-top cup—an evolution of a low-gravity cup developed on the International Space Station in the 1990s—after Italy announced that it would send an espresso machine to the ISS later this year.
Researchers used mathematical models to determine the shape of the espresso cup, which looks a bit like a baby boot. The vessel’s geometric shapes and curves are designed to encourage the controlled movement of liquid.
Mark Weislogel, a professor of mechanical and materials engineering, said that the science used in the cup’s development has other fluidic system applications. “It’s a fast way to get a bunch of engineering and science data,” he told Wired. “Also it’s fun.”
The reusable cup, which is still in the testing stage, costs $500 to 3D-print in transparent plastic.