Two hour flight from Aust to London one step closer to reality
Melbourne researchers have developed high heat-resistant cost-effective ceramics – and they just may be the key to hypersonic flight.
Australia never feels quite so far away as when faced with the prospect of a flight home from the UK. The anticipation of 24 hours spent trapped in a flying steel tube sharing an armrest with a snoring stranger is enough to make you vow never to return Down Under again – or, at least until teleportation becomes a reality.
Well, teleportation may still be a while off, but new research coming out of Melbourne has instead made a two-hour flight from the UK back to Australia a more tangible possibility. Two hours from London to Sydney? Close enough to teleportation to me.
How you ask? Well, it seems one of the things that stops planes hurtling through the air at speeds fast enough to get us home by lunchtime is that current aircraft materials will melt or malfunction under the extreme temperatures that would be experienced during hypersonic flight.
Hypersonic flight would allow aircrafts to fly at up to five times faster than the speed of sound. Whilst this has been partly achieved, with some jets being built achieving such speeds for a few seconds, the materials to maintain this for say, the 17,000 km journey between Australia and the UK, are still in the process of being developed.
Now Melbourne researchers have developed a new technique of making the ceramic materials needed to withstand temperatures of over 3000 °C, bringing hypersonic flight one-step closer.
Dr Carolina Tallon, together with Prof George Franks of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Melbourne, have developed a new processing technique – a form of slip casting that allows them to generate ultra-high temperature withstanding ceramic components at lower temperatures and pressures, proving more resilient to high heat, and more cost-effective to make.
“The preliminary tests showed that the components we made were able to survive temperatures above 3400 °C while keeping their shape and mechanical integrity,” Dr Tallon says. “This technique is so versatile that we can fabricate anything from hip replacements to turbine rotors.”
The result of extensive collaboration between a number of researchers at Australian universities, national laboratories and the Defence Materials Technology Centre, it is an important step towards achieving the complex, heat-resistant ceramic materials needed for tomorrow’s hypersonic airliners. For example, the type of airliners that could leave London early in the morning and still get us home in time for breakfast.