This Phase I SBIR proposal seeks to create polycrystalline ceramics using nanomaterials as seed crystals to promote the formation of well-ordered crystalline domains of ceramic materials that are more resistant to high temperature oxidation and capable of higher strain than conventional ceramics. The rationale is that fine micrograins, containing well-ordered, uniform atomic lattice crystals, materials will exhibit less brittle fracture and resist oxidation and ablation. In other words, they will behave more like high temperature metals. This proposal takes the view that refractory carbides such as hafnium carbide are the best high temperature ablation resistant materials possible, and their ultimate performance depends upon a well-ordered atomic lattice in a uniform, micro-dispersed grain structure.
The number one application is high temperature hypersonic shielding materials, but the methodology has application to any type of structural ceramic material when high performance is required. High temperature oxidation resistance and ductility are the main properties that are sought, but generally high-performance, lightweight structures will result from enhanced long range order in the atomic lattice, and the creation of highly dispersed micro-dimensioned grains.
Aerospace is the intended application, but any application that demands high performance, especially at high temperature, benefits from improved materials. The main trade-off is that nanomaterials add cost. Civilian aerospace is the most direct benefactor, but high temperature electronics and sporting goods also can support the necessary premium for high performance.