This New Ceramic Coating Can Make Hypersonic Air Travel A Reality

Typically airplanes cruise the skies at speeds less than 1000 km/h (621 mph), which works pretty well but who doesn’t want to go faster? Supersonic air travel became a reality with the Concorde, but regulatory and technical challenges forced the craft to retire soon. While a startup called BOOM works on a supersonic passenger jet, we might be looking at hypersonic planes capable of flying at speeds higher than Mach 5.

There are various restrictions to hypersonic passenger planes, but the most important of them is the heat produced. When the aircraft moves at speeds over Mach 5, the temperatures goes as high as 5,400F which could even strip off layers of any material from the metal. Even the toughest of ceramic cannot handle temperatures this high so the researchers from the University of Manchester, England and Central South University (CSU), China have come together to find a solution. The new carbide-based ceramic coating created by the team can withstand 12 times severe temperature conditions than the typical ceramics.

The secret to this new carbide coating lies in the manufacturing technique called ‘reactive melt infiltration’ that creates the coating strong and enables it to withstand oxidation. Conventionally used zirconium carbide coating is able to withstand high temperatures, but it is known to degrade quicker.

Knowing that supersonic jets have not been able to establish themselves as passenger planes yet, we can not expect the hypersonic jets to become a reality any time soon. When everything else in the way of hypersonic travel becomes possible, this ceramic coating will be there to ensure our safety while the craft carries us to the far sides of the planet in just two hours. It will also make space travel safer, allowing the spacecraft to return to Earth without damaging the ceramic tiles.

Source: University of Manchester

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