Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Firing up a new alloy

01.06.2018

A centuries-old materials bonding process is being tested aboard the International Space Station in an experiment that could pave the way for more materials research of its kind aboard the orbiting laboratory. Sintering is the process of heating different materials to compress their particles together.

"In space the rules of sintering change," said Rand German, principal investigator for the investigation titled NASA Sample Cartridge Assembly-Gravitational Effects on Distortion in Sintering (MSL SCA-GEDS-German). "The first time someone tries to do sintering in a different gravitational environment beyond Earth or even microgravity, they may be in for a surprise. There just aren't enough trials yet to tell us what the outcome could be. Ultimately we have to be empirical, give it a try, and see what happens."


MSL's Low Gradient Furnace after installation of the flight furnace handle.

Credit: NASA

If the disparities between sintering on Earth and sintering in space can be better understood through continued experimentation, the technique could hold promise as an in-flight manufacturing solution or become a reliable path for piecing together in-situ resources.

Missions to Mars or the Moon could leverage this new knowledge of sintering to piece together habitats from the lunar or Martian soil, known as regolith. Regolith includes mixed sediment like loose rock, dust, and soil.

The sintering process is used on a wide variety of everyday items that require metal bonding from the metal parts of a watch to a set of braces or the hinges on eyeglasses. One familiar example of the process in action is the bonding that occurs when ceramics are fired in a kiln.

This experiment relies on sintering to study a new alloy's behavior in microgravity.

"After the 1940s, sintering really started to take off as a manufacturing process," said German. "Once the automotive industry adopted it, the field saw phenomenal growth. Now we want to take sintering to space."

Components for the investigation were delivered to the space station aboard SpaceX CRS-14 and were fired in the Material Science Laboratory Low Gradient Furnace (MSL-LGF) within Materials Science Research Rack One (MSRR-1).

The investigation uses a process known as liquid phase sintering to test the degree of distortion in sintering caused by microgravity. Slightly different from traditional sintering, liquid phase sintering introduces materials with a lower melting point to the mix to bond particles not otherwise easily sintered. The melted additive speeds up and improves the bonding process. The results may allow scientists to adjust future calculations to create more successful bonds in microgravity.

"Sintering happens at the atomic level," said German. "Increased temperatures can cause those atoms to move about, and the liquid phase for our investigation helps with this atomic transport. On Earth, we have very stable structures where particles are pushed together by gravity, but we found in prior experiments that without gravity's compression, the components being sintered can distort tremendously."

Initially scientists on German's team hoped to sinter a tungsten, nickel, and iron alloy, but the team had to get creative to accommodate a temperature of 1210 C - the maximum allowed for the station's Low Gradient Furnace. Their solution? Create a new alloy. While based on previous research on the melting points and sintering applications of manganese, the substance created for this investigation is a novel combination of tungsten, nickel, copper and manganese.

The alloy could even have uses for lower temperature sintering back on Earth, where this bonding process has revolutionized and expanded options for the additive manufacturing industry. While the effects of Earth's gravitational pull are well known and defined for sintering on the ground, the investigation's results could still allow for process improvements and new insights into distortion. Likewise, the new alloy developed by German's team could be useful for a variety of industrial applications.

###

This investigation was sponsored by the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division (SLPSRA) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Sintering solutions aboard the International Space Station | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/GEDS_New_Alloy

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht From the cosmos to fusion plasmas, PPPL presents findings at global APS gathering
13.11.2018 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht A two-atom quantum duet
12.11.2018 | Institute for Basic Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

The dawn of a new era for genebanks - molecular characterisation of an entire genebank collection

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Fish recognize their prey by electric colors

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Ultrasound Connects

13.11.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>