Sharp Focus on Groundbreaking Innovations and Technologies in the Aerospace Industry
• Various “metals" have played a role in the development of aerospace industry since the early age of using aluminum to build rockets.
• "Steel" is the predominant material in aircraft manufacturing today and will continue to be important for years to come due to lower cost and durability.
• The latest innovations and technologies in aerospace that could help determine industrial competitiveness include the carbon nano-alloys "Covetics" and "Alloy GRX-810".
To rise to the top in an industry rich in innovation and technology such as the space industry, a strong foundation based on the development of modern materials from various metals is indispensable.
Nowadays, different kinds of metal are used as the main material of modern spacecraft. Ever since the first generation of corrosion-resistant "aluminum" traditionally used in aircraft has been used to create rockets to reduce the weight and help save fuel, engineers have moved on to alloys such as "duralumin" (also called duraluminum) because it has aluminum as a component as well as copper and manganese which fortify this alloy with strength and weight. At the same time, the stainless steel which is added with chromium and nickel is a special alloy that is highly resistant to temperature drops, so it can handle the very low temperature of the propellant. This material has been developed and tested to be resistant to external factors and micro-cracks, both of which could lead to breakdowns and failures to launch the aircraft.
Although alloys are still the most popular materials in terms of quantity used in space technology, "steel" has always been indispensable in the aerospace industry because it is cheaper and is available in abundance. Using steel as the main material in the production of a single rocket can reduce costs by a dozen fold.
Another innovation worth looking into is the use of large size 3D printers which can create complex single parts for spacecraft. It is also worth noting that the materials including various alloys that were born with this new technology do not need to undergo welding, bending and other complex operations which in some cases is not possible at all to perform with some lightweight metals.
In the midst of intense competition, the key indicators of who will stay ahead of the race in the space industry is metallurgy innovation and technology. Recently, the United States has developed a new technology to produce 3D-printed carbon nanotubes under gravity simulations for use in advanced electronics devices. On-demand direct metal printing technology has been developed to take advantage of the manufacturing in a zero-gravity Low Earth Orbit (LEO) environment to produce a new generation of value-added materials. This is a challenge in terrestrial production. One class of carbon nano-alloy materials, "Covetics", has great industrial potential with higher thermal/electrical conductivity and higher rigidity at lower mass compared to conventional wrought metal. It has the potential for a wide range of applications on the International Space Station, including in spacecraft systems since it can be used to repair specific structures, can be printed in various formats such as electronic components or sensors, or used as a heat exchanger. The production of materials and components involved in this industry directly affects transportation and safety.
Furthermore, there is a discovery of a new material called “Alloy GRX-810” which is 1,000 times more durable than current state-of-the-art materials for use in aerospace and space exploration and spacecraft. This breakthrough could transform space travel and is considered a major revolution in the materials industry because it can withstand harsher conditions than the already existing materials used for rocket engines. It can also withstand fracture up to 2X, and has the flexibility to stretch/bend before fracture up to 3.5X, so it can help cut down operation and maintenance costs tremendously.
The metalworking industry is very dynamic and new information always appear. If you are interested to stay on top of the latest technology as well as other interesting topics in the industrial world, don’t miss the next METALEX Blogs.
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