Mettle, NIT Trichy
Published in

Mettle, NIT Trichy

MATERIALS IN SPACE

The dream of many space enthusiast has been to get a chance to visit the International Space Station. The International Space Station Programme is an initiative taken up by five space agencies, namely, NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA. Governed by the intergovernmental treaties and agreements, it is a centre for microgravity and space environment research laboratory.

The Materials Science Research Rack is a new laboratory onboard the International Space Station. It aims to pave the way for the formation of new and improved techniques for the analysis of metals and glasses on earth. It is about the size of a refrigerator and weighs a ton.

The results from experiments conducted in the facility could lead to the development of materials with improved properties on Earth. Researchers can analyse the properties of a large number of materials ranging from pure metals to glasses, including those of ceramics and alloys. The research can also be used to alter the properties of the materials.

Studying the relationships between the processing conditions and properties of materials requires the contribution of a number of different disciplines. The research rack, measuring 6 feet high, 3.5 feet wide and 40 inches deep provides a powerful, multi-user materials science laboratory in microgravity or near-weightless environment. The separation of the fundamental heat and mass transfer processes can be done, which is usually masked by the gravity experienced on the surface of Earth and so proving this rack to be of high importance to the materials scientists.

The research rack will provide hardware to control the thermal, environmental and vacuum conditions of experiments; monitor experiments with video; and supply power and data handling for specific experiment instrumentation.

Materials science is an integral part of our everyday life. The goal of materials processing in space is to develop a better understanding of how processing affects materials properties without the complication of gravity causing density effects on the processes. With this knowledge, reliable predictions can be made about the conditions required on Earth to achieve improved materials.

The Materials Science Research Rack is an automated facility with two different furnace inserts in which sample cartridges will be processed to temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Initially, 13 sample cartridge assemblies were processed, each containing mixtures of metal alloys. The cartridges were placed one at a time, inside the furnace insert for processing. Once a cartridge is in place, the experiment is run by automatic command or conducted via telemetry commands from the ground. Processed samples will be returned to Earth for evaluation and comparison of their properties to samples similarly processed on the ground.

The development of the rack was a cooperative effort between NASA and the European Space Agency. The rack accommodates the European Space Agency’s Materials Science Laboratory which is designed to provide controlled, materials processing conditions and advanced diagnostics. The Materials Science Laboratory has the capability to handle different furnace inserts. Metallurgical research will be conducted in the laboratory to gain a better understanding of industrial metallurgical processes, such as casting, welding and other advanced melting processes.

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The official blog of Mettle, the national-level annual technical symposium organized by the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Association of NIT Trichy

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