We present in here details of a new method, using drop coalescence, for application in microgravity environment for determining the viscosity of highly viscous undercooled liquids. The method has the advantage of eliminating heterogeneous nucleation at container walls caused by crystallization of undercooled liquids during processing. Also, due to the rapidity of the measurement, homogeneous nucleation would be avoided. The technique relies on both a highly accurate solution to the Navier-Stokes equations as well as on data gathered from experiments conducted in near zero gravity environment. The liquid viscosity is determined by allowing the computed free surface shape relaxation time to be adjusted in response to the measured free surface velocity of two coalescing drops. Results are presented from two validation experiments of the method which were conducted recently on board the NASA KC-135 aircraft. In these tests the viscosity of a highly viscous liquid, such as glycerine at different temperatures, was determined to reasonable accuracy using the liquid coalescence method. The experiments measured the free surface velocity of two glycerine drops coalescing under the action of surface tension alone in low gravity environment using high speed photography. The free surface velocity was then compared with the computed values obtained from different viscosity values. The results of these experiments were found to agree reasonably well with the calculated values.
A number of research teams have observed that glass forming melts that are solidified in low-g exhibit enhanced glass formation. This project will examine one of these glasses, the heavy metal fluoride glass ZBLAN. A four year ground based research program has been approved to examine the crystallization of ZBLAN glasses with the purpose of testing a theory for the crystallization of ZBLAN glass. The theory could explain the general observations of enhanced glass formation of other glasses melted and solidified in low-g. Fluid flow in 1-g results from buoyancy forces and surface tension driven convection. This fluid flow can introduce shear in undercooled liquids in 1-g. In low-g it is known that fluid flows are greatly reduced so that the shear rate in fluids in low-g are extremely low. It is believed that fluids may have some weak structure in the absence of flow. Even very small shear rates could cause this structure to collapse in response to the shear. A general result would be shear thinning of the fluid. The hypothesis of this research is that: Shear thinning in undercooled liquids increases the rate of nucleation and crystallization of glass forming melts. Shear of the melt can be reduced in low-g enhancing undercooling and glass formation. Samples will be melted and quenched in 1-g under quiescent conditions at a number of controlled cooling rates to determine times and temperatures of crystallization and heated at controlled heating rates to determine kinetic crystallization parameters. Experiments will also be performed on the materials while under controlled vibration conditions and compared with the quiescent experiments in order to evaluate the effect of shear in the liquid on crystallization kinetics. After the experimental parameters are well known, experiments will be repeated under low-g (and 2-g) conditions on the KC-135 aircraft during low-g parabolic maneuvers. The results will determine the effects of shear on crystallization. Our experimental setups will be designed with low-g experiments in mind and will be tested as breadboard low-g experiments. It is very likely that the thermal analysis instrumentation can be adapted to be run in the microgravity glovebox facilities. Critical space experiments may result to test the theory at longer low-g time experiments in space.
The effects of gravity on the crystallization of ZrF4-BaF2-LaF3-AlF3- NaF glasses have been studied utilizing NASA’s KC135 and a sounding rocket, Fibers and cylinders of ZBLAN glass were heated to the crystallization temperature in unit and reduced gravity. When processed in unit gravity the glass crystallized, but when processed in reduced gravity, crystallization was suppressed. A possible explanation involving shear thinning is presented to explain these results.
It has been observed by two research groups that ZrF4-BaF2-LaF3-AlF3-NaF (ZBLAN) glass crystallization is suppressed in microgravity. The mechanism for this phenomenon is unknown at the present time. In order to better understand the mechanism, an experiment was performed on NASA’s KC135 reduced gravity aircraft to obtain quantitative crystallization data. An apparatus was designed and constructed for performing rapid thermal analysis of milligram quantities of ZBLAN glass. The apparatus employs an ellipsoidal furnace allowing for rapid heating and cooling. Using this apparatus nucleation and crystallization kinetic data was obtained leading to the construction of time-temperature-transformation curves for ZBLAN in microgravity and unit gravity.