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Michael Braukus

Headquarters, Washington, DC February 5, 1997
(Phone: 202/358-1979)

Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
(Phone: 205/544-0034

RELEASE: 97-23


Details of significant scientific discoveries from
experiments conducted on two recent Space Shuttle missions will be
discussed at a conference Feb. 10-11 at the National Academy of
Sciences in Washington, DC.

NASA researchers, astronauts and university scientists --
responsible for the space-based experiments -- will be available
for news media interviews at the two-day event, held to mark the
joint, one-year anniversaries of the second U.S. Microgravity
Laboratory (USML-2) and the third U.S. Microgravity Payload (USMP-

In the last year, researchers poring over results from the
experiments chalked up findings that will improve life
significantly on Earth.

Their discoveries are expected to lead to better synthetic
drugs, less expensive alloys and metal products, improved
environmental cleanup, greater understanding of weather and
climate, and greater knowledge of how blood clots in the human

Highlights of the scientific results, to be presented at the
conference, include:

¥ Improved radiation detectors, sensors and other electronic
products are expected to result from a study of the
technologically important compound cadmium zinc telluride. In an
experiment carried onboard USML-2, Dr. David J. Larson of State
University of New York at Stony Brook, discovered that crystals
grown in space without touching the walls of their containers are
of markedly higher quality than Earth-grown crystals. This is
expected to promote the use of these crystals in critical
electronics applications.

¥ In the experiment "Geophysical Fluid Flow Cell" that flew on the
USML-2 mission,
Dr. John Hart of the University of Colorado at Boulder sought to
better understand the flows in oceans and atmospheres of planets
and stars. The study showed "banded," rotational patterns of
flows, like those seen in the atmosphere of Jupiter. The
observations are expected to be of great importance in
understanding weather patterns and climatic conditions on Earth.

¥ Dr. J.J. Favier of the French Center of Nuclear Studies,
Grenoble, France, sought to discover how small disturbances in
gravity affect the production of alloys and metals. In his
experiment on USMP-3, Favier found that structural changes
resulted during crystal production because of tiny disturbances
that occurred when the Shuttle's control jets were fired. The
study showed that when the orientation of the growing metal was
carefully controlled, the damage to the crystals by fluid flow
could be eliminated. This and other findings from the experiment
are expected to improve processes on Earth for making products
ranging from alloys for airplane-engine turbine blades to
electronic materials, and ultimately could bring dramatic
improvements in materials manufacturing.

¥ In the biotechnology field, protein crystal growth experiments
on USML-2, conducted by Dr. Daniel Carter of NASAÕs Marshall Space
Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, obtained important results from
antithrombin crystals. This protein, which controls blood
coagulation in human plasma, is very difficult to grow in Earth-
based laboratories because of the forces of gravity. But its
successful growth in space made it possible to further define its
molecular model and understand how it works in the human body,
which has important implications for medicine.

¥ Dr. Robert Gammon of the Institute for Physical Science and
Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, in an
experiment on USMP-3, studied the behavior of an elemental gas at
the critical point -- where liquid and vapor become one fluid. At
the critical point on Earth, the fluid collapses under its own
weight -- preventing precise experimentation. The microgravity
environment of space enabled precise measurements closer to the
critical point than ever achieved on Earth. This finding --
demonstrating that physical measurements can be made in the
microgravity of space that cannot be done on Earth -- provides
insight into a variety of physics problems, ranging from state
changes in fluids to alterations in the magnetic properties of
solids. The results will be valuable in such fields as
superconductors and liquid crystals.

¥ As molten materials solidify during the production of most
commercially important metal alloys, they form tiny, pine-tree-
shaped crystals called dendrites, which dictate the hardness and
integrity of the material. Previous studies indicated that small
variations in the growth rate of these patterns in metal were due
to the microgravity environment of space. But Dr. Martin
Glicksman of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, in an
experiment onboard USMP-3, discovered that the variations are
instead controlled by the specimen size -- contrary to previous
conclusions. His findings will lead to production of less
expensive and more reliable cast or welded metal and alloy

¥ Dr. Robert Apfel of Yale University, New Haven, CT, has examined
the influence of surfactants -- substances which alter the surface
properties of a liquid. Soap and water is an example of a
surfactant-liquid interaction. Apfel, with an experiment on USML-
2, found that surfactants can change the hydrodynamics of
droplets. The findings will lead to new and improved technologies
in manufacturing cosmetics and synthetic drugs, and in recovery of
oil and cleanup of the environment.

¥ In his study on the behavior of liquid drops, onboard the USML-2
mission, Dr. Taylor Wang of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN,
hit droplets with sound. The effect, he found, was the droplets
lost symmetry, and began to rotate. Findings from this study
promise improved technologies in the pharmaceutical industry,
chemical processing and better understanding of rain formation and
weather patterns.

The conference, at the National Academy of Sciences, 2101
Constitution Ave., will include briefings and other activities
from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. EST each day. News media interviews with
research scientists will be available both prior to and during the

Members of the news media interested in covering the
conference may contact Steve Roy at the Marshall Space Flight
Center Public Affairs Office in Huntsville, AL, at 205/544-0034.

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