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Future Spacecraft Material Found, Resists 4,000 Degrees Celsius

In a path-breaking discovery ending the atmospheric challenges during escape and re-entry of space vehicles, hypersonic aircraft, supersonic aeroplanes, scientists from Imperial College London in the UK discovered that the metal hafnium carbide has a melting point that is the highest ever known that can withstand temperatures of nearly 4,000 degrees Celsius.

This can prove a path-breaking discovery to manufacture future spacecraft with the heat resistant shielding for hypersonic space vehicles. It can also provide as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors, thus avoiding Chernobyl type of nuclear reactor accidents in the future.

Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics, with extraordinarily resistance to heat. Until recently, the technology to test the melting point of TaC and HfC in the lab was not available and now the researchers have developed a new extreme heating technique using lasers to test the heat tolerance of TaC and HfC.

Now he scientists have used the laser-heating to find the point at which TaC and HfC melted, both separately and as mixed compositions of both. The mixed compound (Ta0.8Hf0.20C) was melting at 3,905 degrees Celsius, but the two compounds on their own exceeded past record as the compound TaC melted at 3,768 degrees Celsius, and HfC melted at 3,958 degrees Celsius.

"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," said Cedillos-Barraza, who has conducted the research as a PhD student at Imperial College, London.

The researchers are upbeat as the new discovery can help manufacture future space vehicles to withstand extreme heat when travelling above Mach 5 -hypersonic speeds, which cannot carry humans. Even the future spacecraft will travel faster with humans, armed with the new material.

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