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Update(MM/DD/YYYY):02/24/2004

Development of Desktop Single Crystal growth furnace, Smallest in the World

- You Can Make Ruby Whenever and Wherever You Like -

Key Points

  • Growing single crystals for exploring new inorganic materials requires a massive and expensive facility, high electric power, hazardous gases, cooling water supply and others.
  • A high performance single crystal growing apparatus has been developed, characterized by simple and safe operation, small size and rapid heating rate up to 2100 °C.
  • The new system allows quickly making phase diagrams indispensable for exploring new inorganic materials and growing single crystals of photonic and magnetic materials.
  • It has become possible to make single crystals or synthetic jewels not only in basic research laboratories, but also at home.


Synopsis

Nano-Electronics Research Institute (NeRI) of National Institute of Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), an independent administrative institution, has successfully developed a desk-top type crystal growing apparatus, smallest in the world, enabling to grow synthetic single crystals quickly for the exploration of inorganic materials and the creation of artificial jewel, such as ruby, in collaboration with NEC Machinery Corporation. The equipment can be driven by a household power outlet (100 V AC in the case of Japan) to heat up raw materials to 2,000 °C in 5 min at the fastest. In this way, you will be able to make a single crystal or artificial jewel wherever and whenever you want.

The crystal growth furnace, based on heating by focused infrared radiation, is designed mainly for exploring new inorganic materials. In earlier stages of single crystal growing, it is necessary to have a great number of polycrystalline samples of different composition melted with a crystal growth furnace or a heating furnace, and to draw up a phase diagram for assessing the feasibility of single crystal formation.

For making melting experiments with adequate number of samples, it is essential to heat a sample to a target temperature in a shortest possible time. Conventional crystal growth furnaces based on focused IR heating take 30 minutes or so, for attaining to the maximum temperature, around 2000 °C.

Other crystal growers are, in general, of large size, use hazardous gas such as hydrogen or oxygen, and require a massive cooling system, a power supply of great capacity. Research laboratories in universities and enterprises, which are dedicated to the development of new inorganic materials and cannot afford to purchase such an expensive system, are urgently demanding simple, safe, small-sized and mobile crystal growth furnaces.

The present work is an outcome of collaboration between NEC Machinery Corporation and NeRI-AIST. Downsizing of the crystal growth furnace needs efficient cooling of reflector mirror in the crystal growing furnace heated by the radiation mainly from the crystal. Newly designed heat- exhaust system and reflector construction have made it possible to grow synthetic ruby even in the smaller furnace. Therefore, it has been verified that the sample can be heated up to temperatures as high as 2100 °C within 5 min or so.

It is expected that the new crystal growth furnace will accelerate the rate of new inorganic materials development at universities, research institutes and industry, and also contribute to the scene of primary education and popularization of science. The growth furnace weighs 80kg, and measures 65cm(W)×62cm(D)×92cm(H). The equipment will be commercialized by NEC Machinery Corporation soon.

A patent for the growth furnace is being filed.


photo
A ruby crystal created by the crystal grower furnace.






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