Scientists have identified materials that can withstand temperatures of nearly 4,000 degrees Celsius. This is an advance that may pave the way for improved heat resistant shielding for the faster-than-ever hypersonic space vehicles.
Researchers from Imperial College London in the UK discovered that the melting point of hafnium carbide is the highest ever recorded for a material. The researchers developed a new extreme heating technique using lasers to test the heat tolerance of TaC and HfC.
Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics. They are extraordinarily resistant to heat. Their ability could be used for making high-speed vehicles.
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 findings is for the next generation of hypersonic vehicles used for spacecraft, that could become faster than ever. The friction involved when travelling above Mach 5 -hypersonic speeds – creates very high temperatures.