Electrostatic Levitation Lab

Iowa State University Department of Physics and Astronomy



A common difficulty researchers face in material science is the contamination of samples from the walls of the containment chamber and the impurities of the testing environment. To counter this problem, container less processing techniques have been developed for the study of materials across a broad spectrum of temperatures. The goal of this group is to focus on the applications and development of one such technique: Electrostatic Levitation (ESL).

In addition to enabling more accurate measurements of the physical properties, the reduction of heterogeneous nucleation sources opens up a new region of phase space: the undercooled regime; an area that is both interesting and relatively unexplored. So far we have observed materials in the liquid state, several hundred degrees celsius below their melting point, and hope in the near future to measure their thermo-physical properties in this state.

Current Research

  • Undercooled melts
  • Electrical properties across phase space
  • Density

Future Interests

  • Bulk metallic glasses
  • Viscosity
  • Crstallization velocity
  • Calorimetry


05.26.14 - Lots of new levitations happening.

New videos coming soon.

12.19.13 - More website updates. Members page and the Published Work page have been redone.

Work in the lab is currently focused on reconstructing some parts of the chamber.

10.13.13 - General updates. We added a slideshow in the Photos section showing off some new pictures of the chamber.

The problem with FireFox has been resolved.

Next update we will include some information on how everything in the lab is progressing.

10.07.13 - Put the new pages up, there seems to be something odd going on with the website when viewed from Firefox. Everything is normal when using Chrome or Safari. Might have test it out with Internet Explore since it might be used by people.

10.05.13 - Two new pages have been added. The first is a "Published Work" page which has 11 viewable PDF documents. All of which have been published in journals. The second page is a response form. In this form, you can send us your comments or questions and we'll get back to you as long as you leave your name and your email.

We are planning to maintain this website constantly in the upcoming months. Look for more pictures and videos in the future.

06.04.12 - General upgrades to the website. The heating laser is being refitted with two fibre outputs for diametric heating.

01.26.11 - The in vacuum UV source has arrived and allows for full processing of samples. Magnetic equipment is still being developed, and data collection + analysis software is being further refined. Work is also being done on creation of sample cartridge to reduce downtime from obtaining adequate vacuum levels. There is also planned equipment testing for a Neutron Electrostatic Levitator. There is also a new video which showcases undercooling and recalescence phenomena.

08.03.10 - Updated the members at the Lab, and added a videos section. There has been a lot of testing of the magnetic measuring equipment, and everyone is getting prepared for a trip to Argonne, IL to assist Washington University for electrostatic levitation experiments using the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron radiation source.

11.09.09 - Added pictures to "Photos" section.

10.23.09 - It works! This is our first levitation. Check back for levitation without oscillation and real time control.

Iowa State ESL: Silicon

10.23.09 - Everything is ready. The electrode assembly is in the chamber and the high voltage wiring to the assembly has been installed. The lasers are aligned and the vacuum system is operational. The control software has been compiled, uploaded to the target computer, and runs without any problems. We are ready to launch!

10.07.09 - The ESL lab is nearing its initial launch. Much progress has been made in the last few weeks. The group built a sturdy high voltage cable routing system, the positioning optics have been thoroughly tested, and the electrode assembly has been cleaned. A National Instruments data acquisition module has been ordered for the purpose of converting analog voltage monitoring signals into digital form and routing them to a PC in the outer sanctum. Near future work includes connecting the high voltage feedthroughs to the electrodes, shielding the high voltage routing system, and mounting the optics on the table.