The latter half of the last century has seen rapid advancements in semiconductor crystal growth powered by the demand for high performance electronics in myriad applications. The reduced gravity environment of space has also been used for crystal growth tests, especially in instances where terrestrial growth has largely been unsuccessful. While reduced gravity crystal growth affords some control of the gravity parameter, many crystals grown in space, to date, have structural flaws believed to result from convective motions during the growth phase. The character of these instabilities is not well understood but is associated with thermal and solutal density variations near the solidification interface in the presence of residual gravity and g-jitter. In order to study these instabilities in a separate, controlled space experiment, a concentration gradient would first have to be artificially established in a timely manner as an initial condition. This is generally difficult to accomplish in a microgravity environment because the momentum of the fluid injected into a test cell tends to swirl around and mix in the absence of a restoring force. The use of magnetic fields to control the motion and position of liquids has received growing interest in recent times. The possibility of using the force exerted by a non-uniform magnetic field on a ferrofluid to not only achieve fluid manipulation but also to actively control fluid motion makes it an attractive candidate for space applications. This paper describes a technique for quickly establishing a linear or exponential fluid concentration gradient using a magnetic field in place of gravity to stabilize the deployment. Also discussed is a photometric technique for measuring the concentration profile using light attenuation. Results of the ground-based experiments indicate that the concentration distribution is within 3% of the predicted value. Although any range of concentations can be realized, photometric constraints are discussed which impose some limitations on measurements.
Experiments in Fluids – Springer Journals
Published: May 7, 2001
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