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For release: 06-30-03
Photo release #: 03-104

NASA experiments validate 50-year-old hypothesis

Photo description: The photo on the July cover of Physics Today shows a solid metal sample of titanium-zirconium-nickel alloy inside the Electrostatic Levitator at NASA's Marshall Center.Large 1960 x 3008 (300)
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The photo on the July cover of Physics Today shows a solid metal sample of titanium-zirconium-nickel alloy inside the Electrostatic Levitator at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Using electromagnetic energy to levitate the sample was crucial because stray contamination from containers causes crystals to form inside liquid metals, which ruins measurements on pure samples. (NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

 

Photo description: Metal sample suspended in Marshall's Electrostatic LevitatorLarge 1960 x 3008 (300)
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Inside the Electrostatic Levitator, it looks like magic when metal floats in mid-air with no visible means of support. Actually, the sample is suspended inside a chamber by static electricity generated by four electrodes and two electrode plates above and below the sample. A laser beam heats the sample until it melts. Scientists, like Dr. Ken Kelton, a researcher from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., measure the sample's physical properties without interference of a container that would contaminate it. Since 1997, the Electrostatic Levitator at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been used to study the characteristics of new metals, ceramics and glass compounds - both in their hot molten states and as they are cooled to form solid materials. Materials created as a result of the tests include new optical materials, new metal alloys, special metallic glasses and spacecraft components. (NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

 

Photo description: Metal sample suspended in Marshall's Electrostatic LevitatorLarge 1960 x 3008 (300)
Medium
720 x 1105 (72)
Thumbnail 100 x 100 (72)

 

Photo description: Metal sample suspended in Marshall's Electrostatic LevitatorLarge 1960 x 3008 (300)
Medium
720 x 1105 (72)
Thumbnail 100 x 100 (72)

 

Photo description: Metal sample suspended in Marshall's Electrostatic LevitatorLarge 1960 x 3008 (300)
Medium
720 x 1105 (72)
Thumbnail 100 x 100 (72)

Inside the Electrostatic Levitator at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., a metal sample is suspended by electromagnetic energy. The metal alloy sample, left, reflects the red glow of the pointing laser that aims the heating laser, which melts the solid sample. As the sample melts, center, it glows. Then the laser is turned off and the sample cools, changing from a liquid drop of molten metal alloy to a solid sphere. Data taken during this phase change helped Dr. Kenneth Kelton, a physicist at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., validate a 50-year-old hypothesis that explains why liquid metals resist turning into solids. (NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

 

Photo description: A sample processed in the Electrostatic Levitator facility at Marshall Center, is examined by Dr. Kenneth Kelton, left, and Dr. Michael Robinson.Large 3000 x 2130 (300)
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A sample processed in the Electrostatic Levitator facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is examined by Dr. Kenneth Kelton, a physicist at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., left, and Dr. Michael Robinson, a materials scientist at the Marshall Center. Since 2000, Kelton's team conducted a series of experiments in the levitator that helped them validate a 50-year-old hypothesis explaining why liquid metals resist turning into solid. (NASA/MSFC)

 

Photo description: Kevin Croat, a researcher on Dr. Kenneth Kelton's team from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., examines samples processed inside the Electromagnetic Levitator.Large 3000 x 2000 (300)
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Kevin Croat, a researcher on Dr. Kenneth Kelton's team from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., examines samples processed inside the Electromagnetic Levitator, at Croat's right, at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The facility uses electromagnetic energy to suspend solid and molten samples that can be studied without a container, which often contaminates and ruins science experiments with pure samples. In the ground-based levitator, Kelton processed 2- to 3-millimeter samples. For his future International Space Station experiment, he will be able to levitate samples that are more than twice that size. (NASA/MSFC)

 

Photo description: This diagram depicts an icosahedron, a geometric formation that has 20 triangular faces. Medium 796 x 367 (72)
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This diagram depicts an icosahedron, a geometric formation that has 20 triangular faces. Dr. Kenneth Kelton, a NASA-funded researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., studies quasicrystals - unique crystals that have an icosahedral structure. Kelton's recent experiments with quasicrystals in the Electrostatic Levitator at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., verified a theory that explains why liquid metals resist turning into solids. Atoms in the liquid metal are put together in the form of an icosahedron - a geometric shape that can't be arranged to form a regular crystal. (Washington University illustration)

 

Photo description: This image shows the microscopic structure of a solidified sample of titanium-zirconium-nickel alloy. The pentagon-shaped growth edges show the initial formation and growth of the icosahedral structure as a quasicrystal solidifies. The inner pentagon is approximately 1 millimeter in this sample cast in Dr. Kenneth Kelton's laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. It was the first evidence the research team obtained showing that they could form the icosahedral solid directly from the liquid. Data from the sample was used to design experiments that suspended molten drops of this alloy inside the Electrostatic Levitator facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Medium 720 x 511 (72)
Thumbnail 100 x 100 (72)

This image shows the microscopic structure of a solidified sample of titanium-zirconium-nickel alloy. The pentagon-shaped growth edges show the initial formation and growth of the icosahedral structure as a quasicrystal solidifies. The inner pentagon is approximately 1 millimeter in this sample cast in Dr. Kenneth Kelton's laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. It was the first evidence the research team obtained showing that they could form the icosahedral solid directly from the liquid. Data from the sample was used to design experiments that suspended molten drops of this alloy inside the Electrostatic Levitator facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. (Washington University photo)


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