Researchers develop new ceramic coating for use in hypersonic travel


A new type of ceramic coating has been developed by researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK, which is expected to significantly change hypersonic travel for air, space and defence purposes.

Co-developed in partnership between the university’s Royce Institute and China’s Central South University (CSU), the newly developed carbide coating is capable of resisting temperatures up to 3,000°C.

The new coating has also proved to be 12 times better than the existing ultra-high temperature ceramics (UHTC), such as Zirconium carbide (ZrC), an extremely hard refractory ceramic material commercially used in tool bits for cutting tools.

University of Manchester Regius professor Philip Withers said: “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.

“But at present, one of the biggest challenges is how to protect critical components such as leading edges, combustors and nose tips so that they survive the severe oxidation and extreme scouring of heat fluxes at such temperatures cause to excess during flight.”

“Future hypersonic aerospace vehicles offer the potential of a step jump in transit speeds."

In addition, CSU’s Powder Metallurgy Institute has manufactured the coating’s structural make-up and features, which include improved resistance against heat and oxidation.

The coating’s features and structural make-up were studied at the University of Manchester’s School of Materials.

While developing the coating, researchers used a process called reactive melt infiltration (RMI), which considerably reduces the time needed to make such materials, and has been in reinforced with carbon-carbon composite (C/C composite).

The process has made the material strong and extremely resistant to the usual surface degradation.


Image: Planes of the future. Photo: courtesy of the University of Manchester.