Ceramic composites give super-alloys strong competition

Aug. 8, 2012
Ceramics are lightweight, strong and can take serious heat. But it has a reputation of being a brittle material that can shatter on impact, making it a less than likely choice for engine design.

Ceramics are lightweight, strong, and can take serious heat. But they have a reputation of being brittle materials that shatter on impact, making them a less than likely choice for engine design. This could change as scientists at GE Global Research try to toughen the material while keeping its other properties intact.

The researchers have come up with a material called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). CMCs are made from a silicon carbide matrix toughened with a proprietary coating of silicon carbide fibers. The durable new material withstands temperatures as high as 2,400°F and weighs one-third of nickel super-alloys. The fibers are said to be less than one-sixth the diameter of a human hair.

You can see in this video that CMCs act like metal when a bullet is shot at it. The bullet actually bounces back with impact testing at around 150 mph.

CMC is strong, tough and can be mass produced. When airlines substitute CMC parts in the gas turbines, their engines will become 15% more efficient due to their reduced weight.

 Watch this video to see how the CMCs are produced.

More information: http://www.gereports.com/sure-shot/ 

About the Author

Lindsey Frick | Associate Editor

Lindsey has been an Associate Editor for Machine Design since 2012. She holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Cleveland State University. Prior to joining Penton, she worked in product design, packaging, development and strategy, and manufacturing. She covers the materials market and other areas of interest for design engineers such as 3D printing and methods to operate efficiently.

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