17.06.2020Engineering the future: Advanced ceramics in the aerospace industry
Thanks to their unique properties, advanced ceramic materials have had an inestimable impact on engineering across a broad range of industries. As their ability to minimise heat transfer, limit failure propagation and adhere to mass limits develops, it’s clear that advanced ceramics will find increasing application in the aerospace industry.
Of all the many specialised and demanding roles ceramic components serve, none is more mission critical than their application in space and space exploration. Advanced ceramic tiling for the exteriors of space shuttle fuselages became commonplace to ensure optimal thermal shock resistance and enduring chemical stability when entering the earth’s atmosphere.
Now, the ceramics used in NASA’s space shuttles for many years are increasingly being applied in commercial aircraft, and to protect military aircraft and helicopters during field missions. Ceramic armour plates are even gradually replacing steel protective components in the military sector, providing improved ballistic impact resistance without increasing aircraft mass profiles.
Not only do advanced ceramic components offer resistance to high temperatures, they provide excellent electrical and radio frequency insulation, are extremely durable and resistant to repeated and extreme thermal cycling and mechanical wear, are corrosion resistant and chemically inert, with a high strength to density ratio. Hardly surprising, then, that vast resources are being poured into the research, design and implementation of advanced ceramic materials and products.
Ceramics have been adopted for multiple applications in the design of space vehicles, including thermal protection from the exterior exhaust and interior protection in the form of insulation. Ceramics achieve heat resistance in everything from batteries, magnets, and semiconductors.
Ceramics are used in both aerospace and aviation design and manufacturing, where numerous corrosive and potentially hazardous materials, including jet fuel, make this type of protection absolutely critical.
In aerospace and aviation design and production, ceramics are used simply because they are a lighter alternative to metals. Smooth and typically free of any surface imperfections, they allow for greater payloads on aircraft, faster speeds for military-grade jets, and increased mission time for space exploration.
Advanced ceramic materials for future aerospace applications
The sky really is no limit for advanced ceramics applications in the aerospace industry, and we’ll undoubtedly continue to see exciting developments not only in conventional aircraft but in hypersonic vehicle design, rocket propulsion systems, planetary entry and descent vehicles, exotic space propulsion thrusters, and who knows what else?
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