NASA/July 17, 1997 MSL-1 Science Wrapup - Materials Science
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experiments investigated some basic physics and engineering that could improve
future experiments or spacecraft operations. Each dealt with different types
of fluid motion.
Model means a small imitation of the real thing. The Physics of Hard Spheres Experiment (PHaSE) was the reverse. It used small plastic beads as stand-ins for atoms because real atoms cannot be seen under microscopes. The beads were shifted around, and laser light shone through, to study how atoms and molecules arrange themselves when they settle down to form crystals. Initial data indicate that these model crystals grew faster than on Earth, "exciting and unexpected results" which led the science team to revise its experiment plan. The results go beyond what the team expected before the mission, and show the "promise of interesting new science in the field of condensed matter physics."
Internal Flows in a Free Drop (IFFD; also in the glovebox) put droplets under the lens to see how they shimmied and vibrated as they were washed in sound waves. Out of six runs, four were completed and portions of the other two were done. The crew was able to use sound to control the rotation of a single drop. Tracer particles showed motion inside the drops.
The Capillary Heat Transfer (CHT; also in the glovebox) experiment sought success in failure of sorts. Capillary heat transfer uses the same force that draws water up a soda straw to pull a cooling liquid through a tube. At one point the liquid absorbs heat, evaporates, carries it away to a cool area where it condenses and then starts the cycle over again. The small glass tubes in CHT carried alcohol and "failed" - its proper flow broke down - as expected in one case, and another time when it was expected to be stable.
Bubble and Drop Nonlinear Dynamics (BDND; shown above; also in the glovebox) obtained the first data on how a droplet's vibrations decay while the drop floats free. This is important in understanding some industrial processes and how rain forms in clouds. It also obtained the first accurate data on how a droplet can be positioned by sound waves, an important means of positioning pure materials without touching them.