Silicon Carbide (SiC) Fiber-Reinforced SiC Matrix Composites

materials and coatings
Silicon Carbide (SiC) Fiber-Reinforced SiC Matrix Composites (LEW-TOPS-25)
Lightweight high-performance SiC/SiC ceramic composite materials and SiC fibers for use in extreme environments.
Innovators at NASA's Glenn Research Center have conducted leading-edge research toward the development of silicon carbide (SiC) fibers and SiC/SiC ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) that can be used in high-temperature structural applications, such as hot components in gas turbine engines. Glenn has gained recognition for the innovative design and processing technologies required for these materials. NASA's patented SiC/SiC CMC technologies use the advantages of non-oxide SiC fibers and matrices to yield ceramic composites that can withstand adverse structural and environmental conditions for long times at temperatures up to 2700°F. The CMC properties offer significant benefits in comparison to other options, including metallic superalloys, monolithic ceramics, carbon fiber composites, and oxide/oxide ceramic composites. These composites are also invaluable in their ability to be engineered for specific stress, temperature, life, and environmental conditions.

The Technology
Aimed at structural applications up to 2700°F, NASA's patented technologies start with two types of high-strength SiC fibers that significantly enhance the thermo-structural performance of the commercially available boron-doped and sintered small-diameter “Sylramic” SiC fiber. These enhancement processes can be done on single fibers, multi-fiber tows, or component-shaped architectural preforms without any loss in fiber strength. The processes not only enhance every fiber in the preforms and relieve their weaving stresses, but also allow the preforms to be made into more shapes. Environmental resistance is also enhanced during processing by the production of a protective in-situ grown boron-nitride (iBN) coating on the fibers. Thus the two types of converted fibers are called “Sylramic-iBN” and “Super Sylramic-iBN”. For high CMC toughness, two separate chemical vapor infiltration (CVI) steps are used, one to apply a boron nitride coating on the fibers of the preform and the other to form the SiC-based matrix. The preforms are then heat treated not only to densify and shrink the CVI BN coating away from the SiC matrix (outside debonding), but also to increase its creep resistance, temperature capability, and thermal conductivity. One crucial advantage in this suite of technologies lies in its unprecedented customizability. The SiC/SiC CMC can be tailored to specific conditions by down-selecting the optimum fiber, fiber coating, fiber architecture, and matrix materials and processes. In any formulation, though, the NASA-processed SiC fibers display high tensile strength and the best creep-rupture resistance of any commercial SiC fiber, with strength retention to over 2700°F.
Molten Gold Pour SiC inlet turbine vane fabricated by the materials and processes of the NASA technologies
  • Versus metallic superalloys: lower density, higher temperature capability, and lower thermal expansion
  • Versus monolithic ceramics: non-catastrophic failure, higher toughness, better damage tolerance, and capability for large components
  • Versus carbon fiber composites: higher oxidative durability, more predictable life, and lower permeability
  • Versus oxide/oxide ceramic composites: greater strength, higher temperature capability, better creep-rupture resistance and thermal conductivity, and lower permeability

  • Combustion and turbine section components of aero-propulsion and land-based gas turbine engines
  • Heat exchangers, reformers, reactors, and filters for the chemical industry
  • Preheaters, recuperators, and radiant tubes for the heat transfer industry
  • Thermal protection systems, thruster nozzles, reusable rocket nozzles, and turbopump components for space vehicles
  • Furnace components
  • Nuclear fission and fusion reactors as fuel cladding and radiation blankets
Technology Details

materials and coatings
LEW-17240-1 LEW-17317-1 LEW-17317-2
Similar Results
Rocket Nozzles
Silicon Carbide Fiber Tows
SiC fiber tows and preform materials are commonly used as reinforcements in CMCs, to make parts for use in harsh, high-temperature environments such as aircraft engines. These materials are desirable for numerous high-temperature applications because of their very low weight and outstanding thermo-chemical inertness. However, the multiple-step process using electric furnaces to produce these materials have numerous drawbacks: they are very expensive ($10,000 to $25,000 per spool); they involve high temperatures (greater than 2000°C); they require high power (more than 700 watts); and they produce much wasted material. Glenn innovators have discovered an efficient way to improve the quality and strength of SiC fiber tows using a unique microwave-furnace design that induces molecular heating. Glenn's innovation relies on microwave sintering to convert a polymer to ceramic fibers/tows/yarns, or to manipulate commercially available SiC fibers to increase strength and improve other qualities. Not only can higher quality tows be produced, but also - for the first time - old, damaged, or otherwise unusable fibers can be improved and recycled, thereby saving significant costs by increasing yield. Even entire engine components can be placed in the furnace and restored. The desired results can be achieved in minutes rather than the usual hours or even days. Glenn's low-temperature microwave process provides greater control with less power, while also eliminating plasma generation and minimizing arcing events. Because this method also facilitates the shaping of the SiC fiber after initial processing, fabricating preforms with 2D or 3D architectures becomes simpler. Glenn's creative processing method makes producing SiC tows and preforms much less expensive, opening them up for increased use in a broad range of applications.
Aircraft Jet Engine
Environmental Barrier Coatings for Ceramic Matrix Composites
CMCs are a game-changer for a number of applications because of their lighter weight, higher temperature capability, and resistance to oxidation. It has been estimated that aircraft designs relying on CMCs can decrease fuel consumption by 10% by 2020. EBCs are used to protect CMCs from water vapor and other corrosive gases inside engines and other extreme environments. The current state of the art for EBCS features a silicon bond coat that is not viable beyond its melting point of 1482°C. By contrast, Glenn's EBCs have demonstrated a steam oxidation life of at least 500 hours at 1482°C, making them ideal durable coatings for next-generation CMCs. These EBCs are slurries, with either a mullite-based bond coat or a rare earth disilicate-based bond coat comprising at least three and two layers, respectively. Mullite is often used as a refractory material for furnaces, reactors, etc. because of its high melting point (1840°C). Rare earth disilicates also have high melting points (~1800°C). These bond coats can be fabricated by preparing a mixture of a coating material, a primary sintering aid, at least one secondary sintering aid, and a solvent. The mixture is then processed (e.g., in a milling media) to form a slurry that can be deposited to a CMC substrate. The sintering aids have two primary functions: 1) densifying deposited slurry by generating liquid phases via reactions with the coating material and other sintering aids, so that the liquid fills gaps between particles of coated material; 2) enhancing bonding and performance of the coating by generating reaction products that enhance those qualities. One great advantage of this EBC is that it can be fabricated via various low-cost methods - including dipping, spinning, spin-dipping, painting, and spraying - in addition to plasma-spraying. Glenn's innovation rises to meet the need for a new class of EBCs that can keep up with CMCs' increasing ability to withstand higher temperatures and stresses than ever before.
Jet Turbine Profile
Packaging for SiC Sensors and Electronics
Prior approaches to bonding a SiC sensor and a SiC cover member relied on either electrostatic bonding or direct bonding using glass frits. The problem with the former is that its relatively weak bond strength may lead to debonding during thermal cycling, while the latter requires the creation of apertures that can allow sealant to leak. Glenn's innovation uses NASA's microelectromechanical system direct chip attach (MEMS-DCA) technology that can be bulk-manufactured to reduce sensor costs. The MEMS-DCA process allows a direct connection to be made between chip and pins, thereby eliminating wire bonding. Sensors and electronics are attached in a single-stage process to a multifunctional package, which, unlike previous systems, can be directly inserted into the housing. Additional thick pins within the electrical outlet allow the package to be connected to external circuitry. Furthermore, because the top and bottom substrates' thermomechanical properties are similar to that of the sensors, the problem of mismatch in the coefficient of thermal expansion is significantly reduced, minimizing thermal cycling and component fatigue. By protecting sensors and electronics in temperatures up to 600°C, approximately twice what has previously been achievable, Glenn's innovation enables SiC components to realize one of their most exciting possibilities - direct placement within high-temperature environments.
Circuit Chip
Integrated Circuit Chips
NASA Glenn's durable, extreme-temperature, integrated circuit chips begin with the replacement of conventional silicon IC transistors with n-channel SiC junction field effect transistors (JFET) and resistors that can reliably function above 500°C. JFETs with the necessary high-temperature stability and electrical gain are fabricated from commercial 4H-SiC wafers with epilayers using dry etching and a self-aligned n-type ion implantation. An innovative circuit approach creates digital logic gates from these normally-on n-channel JFETs and resistors. Using two levels of 500°C durable metal to interconnect numerous SiC gates, complex circuits enabling a variety of control, operation and sensing functions for intelligent systems in harsh environments can be implemented in physically small chips. The challenge of getting electrical signals to and from the chip in a harsh environment is overcome by the use of the iridium interfacial stack (IrIS) that acts simultaneously as a bond metal and diffusion barrier, and can be used on an ohmic contact to the SiC. Combined with Glenn-developed high-temperature durable ceramic chip packaging and harsh environment sensor technology, this revolutionary durable integrated circuit technology is game changing for harsh-environment applications of all types.
Fighter Jet
Metallization for SiC Semiconductors
To avoid catastrophic failure, traditional electrical ohmic contacts must be placed at some distance from the optimal position (especially for sensors) in high-temperature environments. In addition, conventional metallization techniques incur significant production costs because they require multiple process steps of successive depositions, photolithography, and etchings to deposit the desired ohmic contact material. Glenn's novel production method both produces ohmic contacts that can withstand higher temperatures than ever before (up to 600°C), and permits universal and simultaneous ohmic contacts on n- and p-type surfaces. This makes fabrication much less time-consuming and expensive while also increasing yield. This innovative approach uses a single alloy conductor to form simultaneous ohmic contacts to n- and p-type 4H-SiC semiconductor. The single alloy conductor also forms an effective diffusion barrier against gold and oxygen at temperatures as high as 800°C. Glenn's extraordinary method enables a faster and less costly means of producing SiC-based sensors and other devices that provide quicker response times and more accurate readings for numerous applications, from jet engines to down-hole drilling, and from automotive engines to space exploration.
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