Without high-temperature coatings, the metallic parts of a jet engine would melt away in a crucible of 2,500-degree Fahrenheit heat. Materials Science and Engineering Professor John Perepezko and his team have developed a new, molybdenum-silicon-boron coating that could allow engines to operate at even greater temperatures, promising more efficiency and longer life for parts operating in extreme conditions.
Perepezko discovered the material in identifying key aspects of alloy stability and examining oxidation response. His team has demonstrated that the coating provides excellent protection up to almost 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. “If you want to increase the efficiency of a thermal engine, you have to increase the temperature difference between the sink temperature and the operating temperature or ambient temperature,” Perepezko says. “You can’t refrigerate the world so you have to change the operating temperature.”
If implemented in jet engines, the material could improve thrust, save fuel and keep millions of tons of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
The discovery is patented and licensed through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and currently is used by high-tech material manufacturer H.C. Starck to produce massive electrodes that heat vast swimming-pool-sized vats of molten glass. Perepezko’s team also has developed a two-stage process for including the material in ceramics and composites, greatly expanding the potential for their use.