Washington, September 22 (ANI): With the help of equipment recently delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) by the Space Shuttle Discovery, a scientist of Indian origin would be able to conduct crystal growth experiments in space, despite being Earth bound.
The scientist in question is Rohit Trivedi, a senior metallurgist at the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory.
Equipment delivered to ISS will allow Earth-bound Trivedi to conduct crystal growth experiments he first conceived more than a decade ago.
The equipment is actually a mini laboratory, known as DECLIC (Device for the study of Critical LIquids and Crystallization) - will allow Trivedi to study and even control crystal growth pattern experiments, in real time, from his laboratory in Wilhelm Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames.
The goal is to use the microgravity environment on board the Space Station to determine how materials form crystals as they move from liquid to solid and what effect variations in growth conditions have on crystallization patterns.
"When materials 'freeze', there are specific crystalline growth patterns that appear, and there are fundamental physics that govern these patterns," Trivedi said.
"However, small effects can have significant influence on the patterns that form. Snow flakes, for example, form the same basic six-sided pattern, but because of minute variations, no two are exactly alike. These crystallization patterns play a critical role in governing the properties of a solidified material," he added.
Trivedi hopes the experiments will help explain how certain materials, under certain conditions produce particular crystal growth patterns, such as these nickel-based superconductors.
The material to be used in the DECLIC experiments is a transparent, wax-like substance called succinonitrile.
With a relatively low melting point, 57 degrees Celsius, the material lends itself to study in the controlled confines of the Space Station, and its transparency will make it possible for researchers to view the crystal growth process as the material solidifies.
However, the basic principles governing crystal growth will be the same.
As to why the experiments are being conducted in low gravity, Trivedi said that the low gravity will "erase" the effects of convection, the natural circulation of fluid.
"On Earth, the small effects are masked by convection," he said.
"We hope that in a low-gravity environment, convection will be minimized so that we can more clearly see the importance of the small effects and see how the experimental data match our theoretical modeling," he added.
"If we see something unusual, we can repeat the experiment, all in real time. Likewise, if we don't see much happening, we can alter the conditions and move on," he further added. (ANI)