XRMON-GF experimental set-up devoted to x-ray radiographic observation of directional solidification under microgravity on MASER 12 sounding rocket mission

The present research program concerns the solidification of metallic alloys in microgravity environment. The solidification patterns that dynamically form at the solid - liquid interface relate to non - linear physics and belong to the field of self - organization in systems far from equilibrium. Beyond fundamental interest, it is long known that a precise mastering of the solidification phase is essential to reproducibly tailor products of specified quality. 

Castings of aluminium are widely used for numerous applications owing to their low density, however they have to stand up against new light materials like polymers or ceramics. The performances of Al-based materials strongly depend on the first step of their elaboration, namely solidification from the liquid state. 

On Earth, natural convection in the melt is the major source of various disturbing effects which can significantly affects solid formation and the resulting grain structure. Solidification under microgravity is thus an efficient and unique way to eliminate buoyancy and convection to provide benchmark data for the validation of models and numerical simulations. 

Most of the phenomena involved in solidification are essentially dynamical. Consequently, it is of major interest to be able to investigate the time evolution of dynamical selection of the interface pattern during the solidification of metallic alloys. On Earth, in situ and real-time imaging of the metallic alloy solidification can be achieved by applying synchrotron X-ray radiography. 

The main objective of the ESA - MAP research project entitled XRMON is to conceive and perform in situ X-ray radiography experiments on metallurgical processes in microgravity environment. XRMON – Gradient Furnace is devoted to the study of solidification process on binary Al-Cu alloy. It has been selected to be flown on the MASER 12 sounding rocket mission, scheduled in autumn 2011.

Read more about the MASER 12 campaign.  

 Click on picture for larger image The solidification process is monitored in real time during the flight

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