Traditional aerospace applications have used metals and other composites as the materials of choice for aircraft production. The advent of supersonic and hypersonic flights mean that these traditional materials can no longer meet the enormous demands of the extreme conditions and applications that hypersonic flights require1. Hypersonic flight dictates the need for new materials possessing extremely exceptional material properties.
According to NASA, one area that requires new materials is that of the turbine engine2,3. The efficiency of a gas turbine engine is increased by raising the turbine inlet temperature, and the maximum temperature is ultimately limited by material properties. Metals are now seeing service near their melting point.
NASA data shows that both commercial and research grades silicon nitride are available which can tolerate the higher temperatures required by more efficient engines. The mechanical robustness of silicon nitride, along with its ability to withstand and perform at high temperatures experienced during high-velocity flights, have made it the material of choice for various aerospace applications.
Silicon nitride can effectively replace legacy materials used in ball bearings, radomes, and RF windows for extreme applications. Similar to the automotive industry, but to a greater extreme, the ability to customize silicon nitride to a specific application is crucial to the overall optimization of these aerospace applications.