NASA/July 17, 1997 MSL-1 Science Wrapup - Metallurgy
Heavy Metal Metallurgy on MSL-1
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either flame or electric - is used to melt metals to form new shapes and
materials. Several MSL-1 experiments were designed to study how to make
those products better, something mankind has done since early humans discovered
that fire softened metals and made them easier to work.
Germany's TEMPUS electromagnetic furnace for containerless processing (left) completed one experiment beyond the 20 planned as it gave TV viewers on Earth the occasional sight of a bouncing ball turning white hot then cooling again. In 197 hours of experiments, TEMPUS used magnetic fields to position metal samples, about the size of a gum drop, and radio waves to melt them in 22 experiments. Observations of how they shook and how far they went below freezing before freezing (yes, that's right; it's undercooling) will yield basic physical data that eventually will be used in steel mills and other factories. TEMPUS provided the first specific heat (amount of heat per unit mass) and thermal expansion of a new class of glass-like metal alloys. Zirconium was heated to 2,000 degrees C (3,632 degrees F) and cooled - sometimes to 340 degrees C (612 degrees F) below freezing - 120 times, something impossible on Earth. It also provided the first measurements of the viscosity (thickness) of undercooled palladium-silicon alloys, detailed data on iron-nickel,chromium (an important commercial metal), and the potential formation of a liquid magnet with cobalt palladium undercooled by 330 degrees C (594 degrees F).
Japan'sLarge Isothermal Furnace (LIF) baked metal samples at an even temperature so scientists can measure the fine details of how metals diffuse or slowly flow into each other. Gravity's effects disrupts such measurements on Earth. Two experiments also looked study how metals are formed by sintering, melting and compressing metal powders. Results will be known when scientists dissect their samples on Earth. All 25 samples were processed with little difficulty.
Results from the Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures (CSLM; also in the glovebox) also will have to wait post-flight analysis of its nine samples. CSLM is a study of why grains in alloys grow larger at the expense of smaller grains, thus weakening jet turbine blades and other crucial materials.