Tantalum Carbide — new shielding material for spacecrafts

This is a golden age of science fiction cinema. If you wish to watch any science fiction cinema, all you need to do is, just wander into one of your local multiplexes and you’re faced with limitless sci-fi movies featuring aliens and superheroes, giant robots and fast moving spacecraft/hypersonic vehicles with a lightning speed. This ability to travel at incredibly fast speeds is a hallmark of science fiction movies.

In near future, the fast moving spacecrafts/hypersonic vehicles which we are watching in the cinemas is becoming reality.

Because, this is the era with more space research is happening. And even, dream of travelling across the galaxy in a few short hours with a lightening speed is getting a little closer to reality.

How it’s possible?

How can they withstand to scorching temperatures in the space?

If possible, but how?

It is possible!, says scientists from Imperial College London.

In particular, the team from Imperial College London discovered that the melting point of hafnium carbide is the highest ever recorded for a material. Being able to withstand temperatures of nearly 4000°C could pave the way for hafnium carbide and tantalum carbide materials to be used in ever more extreme environments.

Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics, meaning they are extraordinarily resistant to heat. Their ability to withstand extremely harsh environments means that refractory ceramics could be used in thermal protection systems on high-speed vehicles and as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors.

What is Tantalum carbide?

Tantalum carbides form a family of binary chemical compounds of tantalum and carbon. Tantalum carbides are commercially used in tool bits for cutting applications and are sometimes added to tungsten carbide alloys. The melting points of tantalum carbides peak at about 3880 °C depending on the purity and measurement conditions; this value is among the highest for binary compounds.

Chemical Properties

The bonding between tantalum and carbon atoms in tantalum carbides is a complex mixture of ionic, metallic and covalent contributions, and because of the strong covalent component, these carbides are very hard and brittle materials. The hardness, yield stress and shear stress increase with the carbon content in tantalum carbide.

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