NASA Exhibit, Experts In San Diego To Focus On Space Research To Improve Earth-Based Industries

March 01, 1999

Promising technologies for industry -- enhanced by science experiments in space -- will be discussed by NASA representatives at the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society's annual meeting in San Diego, Calif., March 1-3.

Held at the San Diego Convention Center, the gathering will feature an exhibit highlighting NASA's materials science research efforts in the fields of metals and alloys, glasses and ceramics, electronic and photonic crystals and polymers.

"Research in microgravity -- or near-weightlessness -- is a whole new science," said Joel Kearns, manager of NASA's Microgravity Research Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "This new field of research is adding considerably to our basic scientific knowledge and our quality of life here on Earth."

Scientists experiment with materials in space to study the relationships between structure, properties and processing methods. By establishing and enhancing computer models -- space researchers are contributing to more efficient industrial processes, faster computers, better building materials, and improved X-ray and infrared sensors.

During Space Shuttle experiments, NASA science teams have investigated the growth of dendrites -- tiny, tree-like structures which form as liquid metals solidify. This research is an important first step toward making metal products used in homes, automobiles and aircraft less expensive, safer and more durable. Sales of metal-cast parts in the United States alone total $25-30 billion a year, according to the American Foundrymen's Society in Des Plaines, Ill.

Also, space experiments have resulted in new understanding of semi-conductors and metallic-electronic crystals for computers, X-ray and infrared detectors. A space-based Mercuric-Iodide experiment developed crystals with 10 times the desirable electronic properties for detectors than crystals grown on Earth.

NASA researchers look forward to conducting future experiments on the International Space Station, an orbiting science laboratory, currently being assembled by Space Shuttle crews. Materials science experiments on the Space Station will begin in 2001 with the launch of the Materials Research Rack and continue with the launch of the first two racks of the Materials Science Research Facility in 2002.
In-person interviews with NASA, industry and university researchers will be available at the conference. For arrangements, please contact NASA representative Joy Gehr at the NASA Materials Science Exhibit or call her pager at 1-800-732-9429. Arrangements also may be made by Steve Roy of the Marshall Center Media Relations Office at 256-544-6535.

Background information about NASA materials science experiments is available at Marshall's News Center Website at:

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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