Increasingly novel materials applications are emerging to provide lightweight thermal management functions in aircraft (such as the Boeing Dreamliner) and oher applications. One example is a metal matrix composite developed by a company called CPS Technologies in Norton, MA. In a typical component, a silicon carbide structure is formed in a plunger-type, low-pressure injection molding machine that uses a carrier feedstock that freezes near zero C. The carrier is removed by a phase management sublimation in which the carrier never becomes a liquid. The product can then either be sintered or infiltrated with material such as aluminum.
CPS says that AlSiC produces hermetic packaging that is much lighter than CuMo and CuW, yet has similar thermal conductivity and expansion coefficient. It also costs less.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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