Airbus Defence and Space, world’s number two in space technologies, has built the Electromagnetic Levitator (EML) facility which was developed under parallel contracts of the European Space Agency ESA and the DLR Space Administration. EML is a containerless processing furnace for materials research in the European Columbus lab, set to uncover a deeper understanding of advanced alloy and semiconductor materials and their molten state properties for the optimisation of industrial scale casting as well as for basic research. The EML together with the first batch of samples is part of the cargo complement scheduled to be transported to the International Space Station (ISS) in June by the European resupply spacecraft ATV-5 (Automated Transfer Vehicle).
At least until 2020 the unique test facility will process various metal and semiconductor samples at temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Celsius in a series of experiments, using the principle of electromagnetic levitation and inductive heating. Several teams of materials scientists and industrial researchers have the objective to acquire high precision data of temperature-dependent thermophysical properties of molten advanced materials, which play a key role in complex casting and solidification processes for these materials when they are used for parts manufacturing on an industrial scale. Performing levitation under microgravity conditions requires only small levitation forces, and deformation of the samples will be avoided which falsifies the measurements based on in-situ optical principles.
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