Pure, low-oxygen zirconium samples have been observed to nucleate a solid phase under conditions during which the sample was expected to remain liquid. This phenomenon was first seen during Spacelab Mission MSL-1R (materials science laboratory) experiments and has since also been observed in the International Space Station (ISS) electromagnetic levitation (EML) facility on a different sample. Current work has been able to replicate these anomalous solidification events under a range of conditions in the ISS MSL-EML facility. The solidification events are not well explained by classical homogeneous or heterogeneous nucleation. The current theory is that collapsing voids in the melt create a local region of high pressure that results in local material being deeply undercooled and a strong driving force for solidification.
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The authors thank Jürgen Brillo, Douglas Matson, Dieter Herlach, Ken Kelton, Dirk Holland-Moritz, and Thomas Volkmann for fruitful discussions. The experiment was run in the ISS-EML facility, formerly MSL-EML. Support for this project was provide through NASA Grant NNX16AB40G.
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Bracker, G.P., Schneider, S., Wunderlich, R. et al. Confirmation of Anomalous Nucleation in Zirconium. JOM 72, 3140–3146 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11837-020-04257-7