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Published February 2014 | public
Journal Article

Materials properties measurements and particle beam interactions studies using electrostatic levitation


Electrostatic levitators have been around for more than 30 years and have become mature tools for the material science community. Originally developed as positioners for materials and fluid science experiments in space, they saw a myriad of offsprings throughout the world for ground-based research, not only in space agencies but also in governmental laboratories, in universities and in the industry. Electrostatic levitators eliminate any physical contact with a container allowing to process and study corrosive or high temperature materials in their solid or liquid phases. Moreover, heterogeneous contamination from the container being avoided, it is possible to reach and maintain supercooled and metastable phases. This, in turns, permits a host of fundamental and applied studies. The nucleation and solidification phenomena can be scrutinized, the atomic structure and dynamic of liquid and metastable phases can be probed and the physics of molten drops could be investigated. On a more applied standpoint, the measure of thermophysical properties and the synthesis of materials with new properties are also possible with current facilities. This paper first describes the principle of electrostatic levitation and retraces the development of various facilities throughout the world, focusing on the advances made by each research group. The capabilities of electrostatic levitation for materials processing and synthesis under different environments are then presented. The paper successively covers in length its contribution for the measurements of thermophysical properties and for fundamental studies using high energy particle beams. Finally, the outlook of electrostatic levitators and its attractiveness for space experiments in materials sciences are discussed.

Additional Information

© 2013 Elsevier B.V. Available online 25 December 2013. The authors (PFP, TI, and JTO) would like to express their deepest gratitude to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for their Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B), and to Dr. J.K.R. Weber (Materials Development Inc.) and Dr. K.C. Mills (Imperial College) for several fruitful and challenging discussions over the years. These authors are also thankful to personnel of AES Co. Ltd., especially Y. Watanabe, Y. Saita, and H. Tomioka for technical help in numerous experiments and post-levitation microstructure analysis. Part of the presented research (GWL) was supported by the Converging Research Center Program through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Korea (2012K001240) and by the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science under the project ''Establishment of National Physical Measurement Standards and Improvements of Calibration/Measurement Capability'', grant 13011001. The authors (DHM and JB) would like to acknowledge DLR colleagues and collaborators, in particular J. Gegner, D.M. Herlach, I. Kaban (IFW-Dresden), F. Kargl, S. Klein, T. Kordel, G. Lohöfer, N. Mattern (IFW-Dresden), T. Meister, A. Meyer, C. Panofen, J. Peters (FRM-II, Garching), A.I. Pommrich, O. Shuleshova (IFW-Dresden), M. Sperl, T. Unruh (FRM-II, Garching), T. Voigtmann, and F. Yang for scientific cooperation as well as several institutes (FRM-II (Garching), Hasylab@DESY (Hamburg), and Institut Laue-Langevin (Grenoble)) for beam time allocation and support. At last but not the least, one of the authors (PFP) would like to dedicate this paper to his beloved mother, Françoise (France) Gélinas Paradis, who passed away during the writing of this paper. He will be grateful forever for her genuine and continuous encouragement in the pursuit of his endeavors and for showing him the path of creativity and achievement.

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