On the ground the upper layer of the liquid in a vessel heated from below becomes hotter than the lower layer. This well-known phenomenon results from buoyancy-induced convection. Though this means that the buoyancy-induced convection is not dominant under microgravity conditions in space, another convection called Marangoni convection may possibly occur. This convection results from an intermolecular force which acts on a free surface, that is surface tension. Since it is stronger at lower temperatures, the liquid surface near the heated wall is pulled to the cooled side as shown. This surface movement causes the inner convection. Marangoni convection, however, may be negligible on the Earth, for the molecular force is generally smaller than buoyancy. Various tests on material processing were recently conducted in space and some high quality crystals free from buoyancy convection were obtained. But, at the same time, others proved to be less uniform than expected in the components' distribution. This nonuniformity seems to be mainly caused by Marangoni convection. It is, therefore, very important to know how to control the convection by studying its characteristics, but the problem is that on the ground it is impossible to carry out the experiment without gravity. That is what a space experiment aboard the space shuttle is planned as the First Material Processing Tests (FMPT) of Japan. The experiment on Marangoni flow visualization is being performed in order to investigate the characteristics of convection in uni-dimensional melt growth under microgravity conditions.
NASA. Marshall Space Flight Center, Spacelab J Experiment Descriptions; p 95-100