Hypersonic travel closer to reality after new ceramic discovery

The new ceramic material is 12 times better than existing ultra-high temperature ceramics.

    2017/07/13

NSFW    MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM — Researchers from Britain and China have developed a new ceramic material that could be used as a coating material in hypersonic planes, which allows them to withstand the extreme temperatures generated by flying at hypersonic speed.

Objects travelling at hypersonic speed have to withstand surface temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius, which is enough to melt materials commonly used in current aircraft construction.

The new ablation-resistant carbide is a substitutional solid solution of zirconium and titanium with boron atoms. It is made by densifying a carbon fibre preform — which is a reaction melt infiltrated to create a carbide composite — by chemical vapour infiltration using CH4 and H2 gases.

The surface region of the carbide comprises of up to 75% ceramic and 25% carbon, which is dense enough to act as a barrier to resist oxidation and extreme heat of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius.

Existing ultra-high temperature ceramics, such as zirconium carbide, is commercially used in tool bits for cutting tools. Researchers say the new carbide coating is 12 times better than the existing ones.

The study was led by researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with China's Central South University. It was published in the journal Nature Communications.
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