Hypersonic travel may become practical with new heat-resistant ceramic carbide material

The missing “technology” in the dream of hypersonic air travel is a light-weight but heat-resistant material that can tolerate the superheating of travelling more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 6 or more). Mach 5 would equate to 3,800 mph or 6,125 km/h. At those speeds, nose tips, wings, turbine blades heat up and degrade due to ablation caused by extreme heat. I the same way ceramics are often used on spacecraft meant for re-entry, hypersonic aircraft must have similar protection — but for longer-term exposure. Current materials degrade — or even evaporate.

 

One of Nasa’s test hypersonic planes.

 

Nasa, have been testing engines and flights — particularly the “X” planes — and others such as Lockheed Martin have concepts and proof of concepts under way. Enter the UHTC teams from the University of Manchester and the Central Souther University of China. UHTC just stands for “ultra-high-temperature ceramics.”

 

Flight test of Hypersonic X 43 from NASA.

 

Ceramic Carbide Coating

Coating the exterior with ceramic carbide may be the solution to flying at hypersonic speeds without subsequent heat degradation. According to the University teams, ceramic carbide is 12 times more durable and resilient as compared to current common-use UHTCs such as zirconium carbide (ZrC) or titanium carbide (TiC).

See this chart of various UHTCs and their temperature thresholds:

 

Melt points of various UHTCs.

 

The new ceramic is made using a method called Reactive Melt Infiltration (RMI), which imposes a mix of elements (Titanium, zirconium and so on) into a composite carbon matrix. The RMI method makes the ceramics far more resistant to degradation caused by heat at hypersonic velocities. Central South University in China made the new ceramic, evaluated at Manchester University.

 

The X-51 hypersonic test NASA (simulated image.)

 

Professor Ping Xia of Materials Science at Manchester University explained: “It has been shown that introducing such ceramics into carbon fiber-reinforced carbon matrix composites may be an effective way of improving thermal-shock resistance.”

 

Concept outline of SR-72 from Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • Crude Oil Prices Uncertain as OPEC Meets to Discuss Supply
  • Clean technologies for mining: Green Mining's time has come
  • Gardening in Space a Challenge for NASA
  • Manufacturing sales up in November, government scraps duties on imported food ingredients
  • Siemens Canada announces order for 270-MW wind project in Ontario
  • Researchers claim micro-fluidics breakthrough with liquid metal pump
  • Canada will reduce oil and gas industry emissions
  • New national aerospace consortium to foster leadership in technology
  • Irving Shipbuilding wins $2.3 billion icebreaker contract with navy
  • Waste-reduction law puts responsibility for products' end-of-life costs on manufacturers
  • Ontario Local Food Bill hailed by farm/food groups
  • Bombardier to build MRO facility in China
  • Saudis will no longer provide "insurance policy" for high-cost oil producers
  • Financial services fastest growing industry in Canada for exports: Conference Board of Canada
  • Hyundai Plans to Sell Millions of BEVs
  • Petronas defers final investment decision on BC LNG project
  • Manufacturing sales up slightly in July, Q3 forecast to be stronger
  • Industrial Control System Security Essential to Businesses
  • New wind farm approved near Lake Huron shore
  • Offshore wind costs will fall significantly if development continues: study
Scroll to Top