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The Big Picture: cooling molten metal in space

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Ever wonder what hot metal would be like if it weren't bound by containers, liquids... or even gravity? You're looking at it. The European Space Agency has developed an electromagnetic levitator that the International Space Station is using to see how molten metal cools when it's free of the constraints you typically find on Earth. This experiment isn't intended solely as eye candy, of course. The station crew will use a high-speed camera to record the cooling process and make note of how it affects material structures. If the tests prove fruitful, they could teach people on the ground how to forge metal alloys with greater strength, exotic patterns and other traits that are very hard to produce using modern day techniques.

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