Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Low-gravity Space Station Lab Used To Study Crystal Growth

Date:
September 22, 2009
Source:
DOE/Ames Laboratory
Summary:
A metallurgist will soon be studying how crystals grow in the low-gravity on board the International Space Station. He will use a mini lab known as DECLIC -- DEvice for the study of Critical LIquids and Crystallization -- to gain insight into how crystals form as the material goes from liquid to solid.

Trivedi hopes the experiments will help explain how certain materials, under certain conditions produce particular crystal growth patterns, such as these nickel-based superconductors.
Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Ames Laboratory

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.”

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Ames Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

DOE/Ames Laboratory. "Low-gravity Space Station Lab Used To Study Crystal Growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090921134646.htm>.
DOE/Ames Laboratory. (2009, September 22). Low-gravity Space Station Lab Used To Study Crystal Growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090921134646.htm
DOE/Ames Laboratory. "Low-gravity Space Station Lab Used To Study Crystal Growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090921134646.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Hyped-Up Big Bang Discovery Has A Dust Problem

The Hyped-Up Big Bang Discovery Has A Dust Problem

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) An analysis of new satellite data casts serious doubt on a previous study about the Big Bang that was once hailed as revolutionary. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) After a 10-month voyage through space, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is now orbiting the Red Planet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A SpaceX Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying a custom-built 3-D printer into space. NASA envisions astronauts one day using the printer to make their own spare parts. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins