High-Temperature Materials in Aviation & Their Benefits
Within the aviation realm, high-temperature materials are critical to both internal and external structures in aircraft. As aircraft engines can surpass temperatures of 2000 degrees Celsius, and vehicles at high altitudes face extreme temperature fluctuations, high-temperature materials ensure the safe and reliable operation of such apparatuses. With this in mind, we will cover the most widely used materials, all of which are chosen for their high pressure and temperature qualities as well as their corrosion and vibration resistant characteristics.
In recent years, composite materials have become a popular choice in the aviation industry. They consist of two or more blended materials that produce characteristics that are different from those seen in their base materials. Composites used for aviation usually offer incredible resistance to impact, fatigue, corrosion, and broad temperature variations. Moreover, they typically display high strength-to-weight ratios, flexibility, radar absorption, and flutter suppression, making them ideal for aviation applications where increased stability and reduced weight is vital.
There are three types of composites commonly utilized in high-temperature aviation applications: ceramic matrix composites, braided composites, and intermetallic alloys.
Ceramic Matrix Composites
Ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) are composed of blended ceramic fibers. CMCs have the ability to handle varying temperature extremes, typically enhancing the aircraft’s overall structural performance. They are usually lighter than nickel superalloys, providing greater temperature tolerances and resistance to pesting and fatigue.
As their name suggests, braided composites are made of interwoven strands of different base materials. With advancements in technology, braided composites have largely benefitted from an automated manufacturing process. More than that, they are valued for their high strength, durability, and resistance to damage.
Intermetallic alloys have garnered popularity in the aviation industry, making them a feasible option for aircraft. They consist of multiple metals such as nickel and titanium that, when blended together, form a solid crystalline structure. The metals used for such alloys have high melting points, superior thermal conductivity, low density, and high resistance to corrosion and oxidation. Additionally, intermetallic alloys can be tailored to meet the demands of a broad range of aviation applications, such as those required of insulation and hardware.
High-temperature insulation is paramount for the protection of sensitive aircraft components that endure temperature fluctuations and increased levels of compression. Aircraft interiors are just one example that often benefit from high-temperature insulation, providing insulation for air ducts and tubing as well as paneling for walls, ceilings, and overhead storage compartments. Likewise, thrust reversal systems rely on insulation to protect the surrounding components from extreme heat from exhaust. Similarly, electrical components and batteries require insulation against heat and electromagnetic interference, preventing electrical fires or other damages. Lastly, black boxes within aircraft are insulated to ensure they can withstand extreme conditions that arise from emergency situations. The exterior is generally composed of a highly durable and thermally efficient insulating material.
Like high-temperature insulation, high-temperature gaskets ensure an airtight seal between surfaces, preventing leaks. For example, window gaskets are installed to seal the gap between glass and sheet metal around aircraft windows, withstanding the outside atmospheric pressure and temperature. Fuel door gaskets seal the fuel system from harsh external factors and are equipped to resist corrosive substances such as jet fuel.
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