Hot structures for hypersonic vehicle components such as nose tips and leading edges require high thermal shock resistance and strength at elevated temperatures. Carbon/carbon (C/C) composites are considered ideal structural materials for these applications because of their thermal and mechanical properties. Unfortunately, C/C oxidizes above 700 °F limiting application without protective coatings. State of the art protective coatings suffer bond failures and exhibit limited thermal conductivity with the C/C substrate. These issues limit the reusability and continuous use temperatures to below 2900 °F. This effort developed a new high temperature thermal protection infiltrated coating made of hafnium carbo nitride (HfCN) that was processed using a new processing technique, reactive solution infiltration. This innovation will produce a coating/bond layer that has high conductivity and high melting point > 5500 °F, enabling coatings to better conduct heat to the C/C substrate; thus, higher operation temperatures and multiple use cycles can be achieved.
NASA applications for this technology will be earth, lunar and/or Martian atmospheric re-entry thermal protection systems along with components for propulsion systems. Programs that could benefit from the insertion of this technology for improved performance or increased margin of safety are Commercial Crew Program (CCP), Hypersonic Technology Project (HTP), and Advanced Exploration Systems (AES).
Commercial customers include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Aerojet Rocketdyne and other aerospace companies. This technology will be applied to supplied components such as aeroshells, exit cones, hypersonic defense, and propulsion systems by the potential customers. This technology could also be leveraged to commercial applications in power generation and propulsion.