Researchers at Sandia National Laboratory have developed a lightweight ceramic composite material that can withstand ultrahigh temperatures of up to 2000°C.
The ultrahigh temperature ceramics are composed of zirconium diboride (ZrB2) and hafnium diboride (HfB2) in combination with silicon carbide (SiC). The material is suited to applications such as hypersonic vehicles like the space shuttle.
The materials were produced by hot pressing. Poor properties reported by researchers who had previously worked on similar materials have been overcome by Sandia researchers who refined the microstructure, allowing a wide range of silicon carbide contents to be used.
Initial testing results have exceeded expectations, with the material performing successfully on a laboratory scale. Plans are afoot to scale up testing in the next year.