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3D-Printed Catalyst May Boost Hypersonic Aircraft Flights

Sep, 2021

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Newly developed 3D-printed catalyst could potentially provide a solution to the overheating problem in hypersonic aircraft by allowing the plane fuel to act also as a coolant.

When hypersonic aircrafts travel at the speed of more than 6000 km/h, the friction between the aircraft and outside air creates a huge amount of heat. To tackle this challenge of overheating, a team of researchers at RMIT used 3D printing technology to create a catalyst that would make hypersonic plane fuel act also as a coolant. The scientists claim that lab tests show promising results for fuelling hypersonic flight and offer an efficient solution for thermal management in aviation and more.

One of the member of the team, Dr. Roxane Hubesch explained that the scientists are focusing on fuels that possess an ability to absorb heat while powering an aircraft. However, this idea depends on heat-consuming chemical reactions requiring greatly capable catalysts. In addition to that, the heat exchangers have to be very small in size as the volume and weight create limitations in hypersonic aircraft. To tackle this problem the team 3D-printed a lattice structures made of metal alloys covered in synthetic minerals known as zeolites. According to the scientists, these structures are described as small chemical reactors and are developed to imitate the high temperature and pressure fuels bear at hypersonic speed. The team put these reactors to test which resulted in unprecedented catalytic activity, in which the structure heats up and some of the metal presumably chromium transfers into zeolite scaffold.

The researchers created various 3D-printed chemical reactors in experimental formats, however, before using them in next-generation planes, more work is needed to be done. The team also looks forward to expand the usages of the technology in vehicles and air pollution control in order to improve indoor air quality.

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