Aerospace

Materials Discovery Could Increase Chance of Hypersonic Travel

An artist's conception of NASA's X-43A Hypersonic Experimental Vehicle, or "Hyper-X" in flight. Credits: NASA Illustration

Story sourced from The University of Manchester

Researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with Central South University (CSU), China, have created a new kind of ceramic coating that could revolutionise hypersonic travel for air, space and defense purposes.

Hypersonic travel means moving at Mach five or above, which is at least five times faster than the speed of sound. When moving at such velocity the heat generated by air and gas in the atmosphere is extremely hot and can have a serious impact on an aircraft or projectile’s structural integrity. That is because he temperatures hitting the aircraft can reach anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 °C.

The structural problems are primarily caused by processes called oxidation and ablation. This is the when extremely hot air and gas remove surface layers from the metallic materials of the aircraft or object travelling at such high speeds. To combat the problem materials called ultra-high temperature ceramics (UHTCs) are needed in aero-engines and hypersonic vehicles such as rockets, re-entry spacecraft and defence projectiles.

But, at present, even conventional UHTCs can’t currently satisfy the associated ablation requirements of travelling at such extreme speeds and temperatures. However, the researchers at The University of Manchester’s and the Royce Institute, in collaboration with the Central South University of China, have designed and fabricated a new carbide coating that is vastly superior in resisting temperatures up to 3,000 °C, when compared to existing UHTCs.

Professor Philip Withers, Regius Professor from The University of Manchester, says: “Future hypersonic aerospace vehicles offer the potential of a step jump in transit speeds. A hypersonic plane could fly from London to New York in just two hours and would revolutionise both commercial and commuter travel.

Read the full story here.

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