Novel NASA alloy offers "remarkable" properties at extreme temperatures
With a view to constructing more durable components that can withstand the very harsh environments in and around aircraft and jet engines, NASA researchers have developed a novel metal alloy with an impressive set of qualities at extreme temperatures. These include incredible strength that is double that of current state-of-the-art alloys, and far greater flexibility, which the team says could lead to key breakthroughs in sustainable flight.
The novel material is an oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) alloy, in which nanoscale oxides are embedded throughout to boost the alloy's durability and resistance to high temperatures. Doing so in just the right arrangement required the researchers to use cutting-edge computational modeling to simulate the thermodynamic performance of the material, and then 3D-printing to produce it.
“Applying these two processes has drastically accelerated the rate of our materials development," said Tim Smith, a material research scientist at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. "We can now produce new materials faster and with better performance than before.:
The researchers were able to arrive at the optimal design for the alloy after around 30 simulations, and say that trial-and-error processes that used to take years now only take weeks or months with these new technologies. The resulting alloy, called GRX-810, exhibited some incredible performance benefits over current state-of-the-art alloys.
At temperatures of 2,000 °F (1,093 °C), GRX-810 offered twice the strength in resistance to fracturing, three and a half times the flexibility without cracking when bent and stretched, and more than 1,000 times the durability under stress. The team says the material opens up new possibilities in aircraft design and could allow for lighter components, reduced fuel use when used in jet engines, and lower operating and maintenance costs.
“This breakthrough is revolutionary for materials development," said team member Dale Hopkins. "New types of stronger and more lightweight materials play a key role as NASA aims to change the future of flight. Previously, an increase in tensile strength usually lowered a material’s ability to stretch and bend before breaking, which is why our new alloy is remarkable.”