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 objective of this ground based study is to test the hypothesis that shear thinning (the non-Newtonian response of viscosity to shear rate) is a viable mechanism to explain the observation of enhanced glass formation in numerous low-g experiments. In 1-g, fluid motion results from buoyancy forces and surface tension driven convection. This fluid flow will 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 can be extremely low. It is believed that some fluids may have weak structure in the absence of flow. Very small shear rates could cause this structure to collapse in response to shear resulting in a lowering of the viscosity of the fluid. The hypothesis of this research is that: Shear thinning in undercooled liquids decreases the viscosity, increasing the rate of nucleation and crystallization of glass forming melts. Shear in the melt can be reduced in low-g, thus enhancing undercooling and glass formation. The viscosity of a model glass (lithium di-silicate, L2S) often used for crystallization studies has been measured at very low shear rates using a dynamic mechanical thermal analyzer. Our results are consistent with increasing viscosity with a lowering of shear rates. The viscosity of L2S may vary as much as an order of magnitude depending on the shear rate in the temperature region of maximum nucleation and crystal growth. Classical equations for nucleation and crystal growth rates, are inversely related to the viscosity and viscosity to the third power respectively. An order of magnitude variation in viscosity (with shear) at a given temperature would have dramatic effects on glass crystallization Crystallization studies with the heavy metal fluoride glass ZBLAN (ZrF2-BaF2-LaF3-AlF3-NaF) to examine the effect of shear on crystallization are being initiated. Samples are to be melted and quenched under quiescent conditions at different shear rates to determine the effect on crystallization. The results from this study are expected to advance the current scientific understanding of glass formation in low-g and glass crystallization under glass molding conditions and will improve the scientific understanding of technological processes such as fiber pulling, bulk amorphous alloys, and glass fabrication processes.