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Utilization of Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) has been started to obtain thermophysical properties of high-temperature melts

Last Updated: October 23, 2018

Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) attached to the Multi-purpose Small Payload Rack 2 (MSPR-2) (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

The logo of the ELF Mission
(Credit: JAXA)


The checkout of the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) installed in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) "Kibo"/International Space Station (ISS) has been completed and the experiments proposed from users have been started. The ELF is an experiment device which electrostatically levitates small samples (diameter=2 mm) and heats them. Refractory materials (melting points of up to 3000℃) can be melted in this furnace to measure their thermophysical properties without crucibles.

Fig.1 shows how the experiment on aluminum oxide was going during the checkout phase of the ELF.

Still Image

A molten aluminum oxide sample (central bright sphere) levitating in the midst of six electrodes (photo taken in July 2017)(Credit: JAXA)


Video(mp4: 5.84 MB) taken during the experiments
(Fig.1 corresponds to the top left of the four-square indication)(Credit: JAXA)

High power lasers were used to melt stably levitated aluminum oxide sample (melting point=2054℃). The images of molten aluminum oxide were analyzed to determine the volumes of the samples. Their densities were calculated from their masses measured after recovery on the Earth. The obtained data were compared with the ones in the literature to verify the validity of the data with the ELF (Fig.2).

図2 酸化アルミニウムの密度

Fig.2 Density of molten aluminum oxide as a function of temperature
(Credit: Tamaru, H., Microgravity Sci. Technol.

At present, a research team headed by Dr. Masahito Watanabe, professor at Gakushuin University is conducting an experiment using the ELF, "the thermophysical properties of high-temperature melting materials and interface phenomena: a basic study on ore refining process based on electrostatic levitation method." Experiments planned for the years to come include the "clarification of the origin of the fragility of high-temperature molten oxides in view of development of non-equilibrium oxide with unprecedented functions," an experiment headed by Dr. Shinji Kohara, Principal Researcher at the National Institute for Materials Science.

Article Information

The results of the Checkout of the ELF and the experimental results were published in the on-line issue of the international journal "Microgravity Science and Technology" on June 16, 2018.

Journal:Microgravity Science and Technology

Article:Status of the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) in the ISS-KIBO


Services related to paid utilization of the ELF are available. If you have interest in the matter, send an e-mail to
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