Containerless, microgravity experiments for studying equilibria in molten metal-gas systems have been designed and conducted onboard of a NASA KC-135 aircraft flying parabolic trajectories. An experimental apparatus enabling one to acoustically levitate, laser heat, and splat quench 1-3 mm metal and ceramic samples has been developed and equipped with computer-based controller and optical diagnostics. Normal-gravity testing determined the levitator operation parameters providing stable and adjustable sample positioning. A methodology for optimizing the levitator performance using direct observation of levitated samples was developed and found to be more useful than traditional pressure mapping of the acoustic field. In microgravity experiments, spherical specimens prepared of pressed, premixed powders of ZrO 2, ZrN, and Zr, were acoustically levitated inside an argon-filled chamber at one atmosphere and heated by a CO 2 laser up to 2800 K. Using a uniaxial acoustic levitator in microgravity, the location of the laser-heated samples could be maintained for about 1 s, so that local sample melting was achieved. Oscillations of the levitating samples in horizontal direction became pronounced in microgravity. These oscillations increased during the sample heating and eventually resulted in moving the sample out of the stable position and away from the laser beam.
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