Scientists have identified most heat resistant material in the world that may pave the way for improved heat resistant shielding for the faster-than-ever hypersonic space vehicles and also it might come handy in several other areas of scientific experiments. The material can withstand temperatures of nearly 4000 degree Celsius.
A team of researchers from the Imperial College of London discovered that the melting point of hafnium carbide is the highest ever recorded for a material.
Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics, meaning they are extraordinarily resistant to heat. Their ability to withstand extremely harsh environments means that refractory ceramics could be used in thermal protection systems on high-speed vehicles and as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors.
However, there hasn’t been the technology available to test the melting point of TaC and HfC in the lab to determine how truly extreme an environment they could function in. Still, study authors tested the materials by bombarding laser and found that the materials started melting in the range of 4041–4232 K. HfC was found to be more heat resistant when compared to TaC.
They found that the mixed compound (Ta0.8Hf0.20C) was consistent with previous research, melting at 3,905 degrees Celsius, but the two compounds on their own exceeded previous recorded melting points. The compound TaC melted at 3,768 degrees Celsius, and HfC melted at 3,958 degrees Celsius.
“The friction involved when travelling above Mach 5 – hypersonic speeds – creates very high temperatures. So far, TaC and HfC have not been potential candidates for hypersonic aircraft, but our new findings show that they can withstand even more heat than we previously thought – more than any other compound known to man. This means that they could be useful materials for new types of spacecraft that can fly through the atmosphere like a plane, before reaching hypersonic speeds to shoot out into space. These materials may enable spacecraft to withstand the extreme heat generated from leaving and re-entering the atmosphere,” said Dr Omar Cedillos-Barraza, who is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Texas.
Dr Barraza added, “Our tests demonstrate that these materials show real promise in the engineering of space vehicles of the future. Being able to withstand such extreme temperatures means that missions involving hypersonic spacecraft may one day be manned missions. For example, a flight from London to Sydney may take about 50 minutes at Mach 5, which could open a new world of commercial opportunities for countries around the world.”
Currently, vehicles going over Mach 5 speeds do not carry people, but it may be possible in future.
The study was published in the journal, Scientific Reports.