FSU Researchers Develop Thin Heat Shield for Superfast Aircraft

December 09 2019

A team of FAMU-FSU College of Engineering researchers from Florida State University’s High-Performance Materials Institute is developing a design for a heat shield that better protects those extremely fast machines.

The team used carbon nanotubes, which are linked hexagons of carbon atoms in the shape of a cylinder, to build the heat shields. Sheets of those nanotubes are also known as “buckypaper”. By soaking the buckypaper in a resin made of a compound called phenol, the researchers were able to create a lightweight, flexible material that is also durable enough to potentially protect the body of a rocket or jet from the intense heat it faces while flying.

This design lets engineers build a very thin shield, like a sort of skin that protects the aircraft and helps support its structure. After building heat shields of varying thicknesses, the researchers put them to the test. One test involved applying a flame to the samples to see how they prevented heat from reaching the carbon fiber layer they were meant to protect. After that, the researchers bent the samples to see how strong they remained.

They found the samples with sheets of buckypaper were better than control samples at dispersing heat and keeping it from reaching the base layer. They also stayed strong and flexible compared to control samples made without protective layers of nanotubes.

The project received second place among peer-reviewed posters at the 2019 National Space and Missile Materials Symposium and received third place at the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering 2019 University Research Symposium.

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