Testing The Metal Of The Future, NASA Researchers To Gather In Huntsville, Ala., For Advanced Materials Conference

July 08, 1998

Research leading to better automobile engines, aerospace alloys, new infrared sensors and faster computer chips will be presented at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala., on July 14-16 during the 1998 NASA Microgravity Materials Science Conference.

NASA representatives, university and industry partners responsible for the ground-based and space-based materials research will be available for news media interviews at the three-day event. NASA's Materials Science Program is managed by the Microgravity Research Program at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Over 100 microgravity investigators will present their experiment results at the conference. Included among them, Dr. Barry Andrews of the University of Alabama at Birmingham will discuss results from a Space Shuttle experiment that mixed metals previously thought to be "unmixable." This process -- observed for the first time ever -- could result in improved materials on Earth ranging from better materials for optical devices to complex semiconductors.

Materials researcher Dr. Ivan Egry of the German Aerospace Research Establishment in Cologne, Germany, one of the principal investigators of the 1997 Microgravity Science Laboratory mission, will open the conference with a discussion of the unique benefits of space flight to advanced materials research.

Also at the conference, researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., will present space flight experiment results that show how molten metals solidify. The experiment provided the best observations yet of this intricate process, which may lead to lighter and stronger superalloys.

Dr. Doru Stefanescu of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa will present findings from a Shuttle experiment that resulted in first-ever observations of how liquid metals accept or reject particles during hardening. This study may lead to new techniques for processing metals. And it may reveal how and why potholes form on road surfaces -- and how to prevent them.

Through the unique characteristics of microgravity or the near-weightlessness of space, researchers are able to study the fundamental relationships in materials solidification -- seeing many processes clearly for the first time. NASA's goal is to advance fundamental materials science research so private companies can use the new technology to develop products like lighter and stronger metal alloys and metallic-electronic crystals with never-before-seen capabilities.

Other experiment results scheduled to be presented at the conference range from investigations into the arrangement of atoms in metal materials to studies of metallic properties including physical, chemical, electronic, thermal and magnetic characteristics.

Note to Editors: In-person interviews with NASA, industry and university researchers will be available at the conference. Please contact Steve Roy of the Marshall Center Media Relations Office at 256-544-6535. Interviews are also available via telephone, NASA/TV live satellite link or e-mail.

More information about NASA Materials Science experiments is available on the World Wide Web at http://microgravity.msfc.nasa.gov/MICROGRAVITY/MS.html. Information on the conference can be found at http://www.ssl.msfc.nasa.gov/colloquia/mmsm/112597_1.htm.

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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