New research into how materials act in space could lead to improvements in the design of everyday objects.

The research is part of an on-going collaborative effort between NASA and other high profile institutions including the French Space Agency, CNES, Northeastern University, Iowa State University, and Aix-Marseille University in France.

Directional solidification

The latest findings have been published in Physical Review Letters, and concern the process of directional solidification aboard the International Space Station.

These finding could have huge implications for structural alloys on Earth, which are produced via the process of solidification.

Structural alloys are an integral part of everyday life, and are implemented in products from aircraft wings to gas pipelines.

Solidification is an intuitive process, though perhaps not one that we think about very often in our day-to-day lives. It is simply the phase transition from a liquid to a solid, most commonly seen as liquid water turns to ice. However, it is also an extremely important method of constructing complex objects for industrial use.

Prof. Alain Karma, a collaborator in this study from Northeastern University, explains the process further:

“Solidification happens all around us, either naturally, as during the crystallization of familiar snow-flakes in the atmosphere, or in technological processes used to fabricate a host of materials, from the large silicon crystals used for solar panels to the making of almost any man-made object or structure that needs to withstand large forces, like a turbine blade.”

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