Materials processing in a microgravity environment is aimed at developing commercial materials as well as investigating basic phenomena to improve earth-based processing. Materials research in space has dealt with glasses and ceramics, crystal growth, electronic materials, metals and alloys, polymers, composites, and biological materials. Battelle has been conducting research in this area since the early-1970s. Several important results have been obtained in: immiscible alloys, containerless under-cooling of clustering alloys, sol-gel glasses, and collagen fibers.
More recently, Battelle's Advanced Materials Center for the Commercial Development of Space (CCDS) has been established to utilize the microgravity environment in the commercial development of composite and mixed-phase materials with substantially improved properties. Currently, the Center is conducting research in catalysts (variant-phase chlorides, zeolites, and mixed oxides), polymer systems, electronic materials (float-zone crystal growth on Type II-VI semiconductor crystals, particularly CdTe), and con-trolled- porosity glass. The present program focuses on a proof of principle for each research thrust, utilizing ground-based and suborbital facilities, together with modeling to demonstrate the potential for producing commercially important materials.
Each of these research programs is outlined. In addition, the more important developments in each of the major categories of microgravity materials research is reviewed.