TerraXcube: the next hi-tech research platform for extreme high altitude climate simulation
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Field-based scientific investigations in extreme environments represent a major research challenge. Complex combinations of multiple environmental parameters can prove highly difficult to mitigate against, thus making it difficult to standardise the logistics necessary to enable assessment of individual physiological or biological response. In an effort to resolve these research concerns, plus remain reactive to technological advancements, institutions have developed specific simulation chambers and accessible facilities in extreme earth habitats. In conjunction with the ongoing development of next generation, simulation-tech research platforms, environmental simulation and interest in investigating climate combinations at a high altitude equivalent is becoming an international hot topic. The design and realisation of the TerraXcube, powered by Eurac Research, is a unique example of the latest in technological advancement. A newly emergent EU research infrastructure, the TerraXcube is complete with two hypobaric, climate enabled chambers (Large and Small Cube), medical support services and research expertise. The large cube (137 m2), will enable the synchronous control of multiple climatic parameters: barometric pressure (≥ 300mbar), temperature (-40°C - +60°C), humidity (10% - 95%), wind (≤ 30m/sec), precipitation (rain and snowfall) and light (day and night cycles). In total 15 individuals can be accommodated. Test protocols in the Large Cube test chamber may be inclusive of the adjacent hypobaric ambulatory room, airlock and toilet facilities; thus enabling investigation of long-term exposure at low barometric pressures, specific ascent/ decent use cases, O2 and CO2 enrichment considerations and controlled investigation of potentially invasive measures. TerraXcube will be officially opened on November 30th 2018.