Researchers from North­eastern Uni­ver­sity are among the many sci­en­tists helping NASA use the weight­less­ness of space to design stronger mate­rials here on Earth.

Struc­tural alloys might not sound familiar, but they are an inte­gral part of everyday mate­rials, such as , car bodies, engine blocks, or . These mate­rials are pro­duced through solidification—a process sim­ilar to the making of ice cubes. “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  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,” said North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Prof. Alain Karma, who was a col­lab­o­rator in this study.

The tran­si­tion of a struc­tural alloy from liquid to solid is mor­pho­log­i­cally unstable, meaning that the inter­face between solid and liquid evolves from a planar mor­phology to a non-​​planar cel­lular struc­ture during solidification—essentially, the same insta­bility is respon­sible for the branched star shape of snow flakes.

Read the article at Phys.org →