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Many parts in today’s industry are exposed to high temperatures. To keep these parts from failing in extreme conditions, engineers need to use the right materials for each design. Not just any plastic will do – the wrong material can melt or warp, leaving the finished part inoperable and useless. Engineers must carefully research their options and choose the best heat-resistant plastic for each application.
Many advanced space and missile technologies require operations at high temperatures, including hypersonic flight propulsion systems. The wing leading edges of these vehicles need to be as sharp as possible for the maximum lift-to-drag ratio, resulting in extreme surface temperature loads that cause most engineering materials to deform, melt or vaporize. This need has motivated fundamental research into new ultra high-temperature materials that combine refractory and oxidation-resistant properties.
These ultra high-temperature (UHTC) materials are being developed through a multidisciplinary university research initiative sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. The Opila lab studies the oxidation behavior of candidate UHTC materials using a custom-built electromechanical testing instrument that can apply quasi-static tensile tests to graphite specimens at elevated temperatures up to 2000AdegF (1093AdegC). A custom-designed high-temperature gripping mechanism allows for accurate loading without touching the surface. The testing machine also uses digital imaging to measure full-field displacement and strain fields with sub-pixel accuracy. This data is crucial to improving material development and testing procedures for these ultra-high temperature materials. The results will enable new applications for UHTCs in aerospace propulsion and other extreme environment systems.