Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ames Laboratory scientist using low-gravity space station lab to study crystal growth

23.09.2009
Real time space experiments controlled by Earth-bound researcher

A research project 10 years in the making is now orbiting the Earth, much to the delight of its creator Rohit Trivedi, a senior metallurgist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. Equipment recently delivered to the International Space Station by the Space Shuttle Discovery will allow the Earth-bound Trivedi to conduct crystal growth experiments he first conceived more than a decade ago.

The equipment is actually a mini laboratory, known as DECLIC – DEvice for the study of Critical LIquids and Crystallization – will allow Trivedi to study and even control crystal growth pattern experiments, in real time, from his laboratory in Wilhelm Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. The goal is to use the microgravity environment on board the Space Station to determine how materials form crystals as they move from liquid to solid and what effect variations in growth conditions have on crystallization patterns.

“When materials ‘freeze’ there are specific crystalline growth patterns that appear,” Trivedi said, “and there are fundamental physics that govern these patterns. However, small effects can have significant influence on the patterns that form. Snow flakes, for example, form the same basic six-sided pattern, but because of minute variations, no two are exactly alike. These crystallization patterns play a critical role in governing the properties of a solidified material”

Trivedi hopes the experiments will help explain how certain materials, under certain conditions produce particular crystal growth patterns, such as these nickel-based superconductors.

The equipment is actually a mini laboratory, known as DECLIC – DEvice for the study of Critical LIquids and Crystallization – will allow Trivedi to study and even control crystal growth pattern experiments, in real time, from his laboratory in Wilhelm Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. The goal is to use the microgravity environment on board the Space Station to determine how materials form crystals as they move from liquid to solid and what effect variations in growth conditions have on crystallization patterns.

“When materials ‘freeze’ there are specific crystalline growth patterns that appear,” Trivedi said, “and there are fundamental physics that govern these patterns. However, small effects can have significant influence on the patterns that form. Snow flakes, for example, form the same basic six-sided pattern, but because of minute variations, no two are exactly alike. These crystallization patterns play a critical role in governing the properties of a solidified material”

While Trivedi, who is also an ISU distinguished professor of materials science and engineering, studies primarily metals, the material to be used in the DECLIC experiments is a transparent, wax-like substance called succinonitrile. With a relatively low melting point, 57 degrees Celsius, the material lends itself to study in the controlled confines of the Space Station, and its transparency will make it possible for researchers to view the crystal growth process as the material solidifies. However, the basic principles governing crystal growth will be the same.

So why conduct the experiment in low gravity? Trivedi hopes that the low gravity will “erase” the effects of convection, the natural circulation of fluid.

“On Earth, the small effects are masked by convection,” he said. “We hope that in a low-gravity environment, convection will be minimized so that we can more clearly see the importance of the small effects and see how the experimental data match our theoretical modeling.”

Much of that modeling has been done by collaboration with Trivedi’s colleague, Alain Karma, a theoretical physicist at Northeastern University in Boston. The pair has also collaborated closely with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French government space agency that along with NASA, helped fund the work.

After preliminary testing in September, DECLIC is scheduled to be online in October and the first set of experiments will run through February 2010 according to Trivedi. Through a connection with the computation center in Toulouse, France, Trivedi’s research group will be able to view video of the material as it solidifies. To pick up the necessary detail, Trivedi’s lab is outfitted with a big-screen, high definition monitor. But they won’t be just passive spectators.

“If we see something unusual, we can repeat the experiment, all in real time,” Trivedi said. “Likewise, if we don’t see much happening, we can alter the conditions and move on.”

All the video from the DECLIC experiments will be captured and stored for future reference by CNES in Toulouse, France. Trivedi’s research proposal was originally selected by NASA for funding back in 1998, receiving approximately $2 million in total through ISU’s Institute for Physical Research and Technology, and was later selected as one of only six projects in materials science selected for actual flight. To now be this close to seeing the project in operation is exciting for Trivedi.

“It’s been a long time since we started,” Trivedi said, “but it’s also given us time to finalize the experiments and work on the theoretical side. Now we’re just anxious to get experimental results to see if things behave as we expect.”

Trivedi’s research isn’t the only Ames Laboratory science in outer space. Materials developed at the Lab’s Materials Preparation Center are on board the Planck satellite as part of the instrument cooling system.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory operated for the DOE by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global challenges.

Kerry Gibson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ameslab.gov

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Melting solid below the freezing point
23.01.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk
20.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>