Titanium-Zirconium-Nickel Alloy Inside Marshall’s Electrostatic Levitator
Image by NASA on The Commons
Description: This is a close-up of a sample of titanium-zirconium-n ickel alloy inside the Electrostatic Levitator (ESL) vacuum chamber at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). The ESL uses static electricity to suspend an object (about 3-4 mm in diameter) inside a vacuum chamber allowing scientists to record a wide range of physical properties without the sample contracting the container or any instruments, conditions that would alter the readings. Once inside the chamber, a laser heats the sample until it melts. The laser is then turned off and the sample cools, changing from a liquid drop to a solid sphere. Since 1977, the ESL has been used at MSFC to study the characteristics of new metals, ceramics, and glass compounds. Materials created as a result of these tests include new optical materials, special metallic glasses, and spacecraft components.