A method has been developed for machining MgO crystal blocks into forms for containing metallic and silicate liquids at temperatures up to 2,400 ºC, and pressures up to at least 320 kilobars. Possible custom shapes include tubes, rods, insulators, capsules, and guides. Key differences in this innovative method include drilling along the crystallographic zone axes, use of a vibration minimizing material to secure the workpiece, and constant flushing of material swarf with a cooling medium/lubricant (water).
A single crystal MgO block is cut into a section ≈5 mm thick, 1 cm on a side, using a low-speed saw with a 0.004 blade. The cut is made parallel to the direction of cleavage. The block may be cut to any thickness to achieve the desired length of the piece. To minimize drilling vibrations, the MgO block is mounted on a piece of adhesive putty in a vise. The putty wad cradles the bottom half of the entire block. Diamond coring tools are used to drill the MgO to the desired custom shape, with water used to wet and wash the surface of swarf. Compressed air may also be used to remove swarf during breaks in drilling. The MgO workpiece must be kept cool at all times with water. After all the swarf is rinsed off, the piece is left to dry overnight.
If the workpiece is still attached to the base of the MgO block after drilling, it may be cut off by using a diamond cutoff wheel on a rotary hand tool or by using a low-speed saw.
This work was done by Lisa Danielson of Jacobs Technology for Johnson Space Center. MSC-25052-1