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As aerospace engineers continue to reach outwards in terms of how far we can travel and how quickly we can reach destinations, the materials used in air and space markets continue to come under scrutiny. Critical aspects of safe and reliable flight to space or at hypersonic speeds are optimally answered by refractory metals.

All great periods of progress in aircraft design and manufacture have been underpinned by concurrent breakthroughs in materials science and engineering. Composites yielded the first functional heavier-than-air aircraft, while the production line provided the means to establish a lucrative new industry. This spirit of innovation is alive today, with major manufacturers shifting towards advanced composites and alloys in airframes, fuselages, engine environments, and electronic subsystems. Some of the frontrunning materials from a performance perspective include the refractory metals molybdenum (Mo), niobium (Nb), tungsten (W), and tantalum (Ta).

Read More: Refractory Metals in Aerospace & Defence

In this article, we will explore some of the critical challenges facing aerospace engineers today, as well as highlighting the roles that select refractory metal alloys can perform for next-generation air and spacecraft.

How Refractory Metals Resolve Aerospace Challenges

Despite some volatility, the aviation market has always been characterized by long-term growth fuelled by the increasingly interconnected global economy and the tourism sector. Many aerospace institutions around the world have envisaged this affecting space flight in the coming decades, leading to entirely new forms of orbital and sub-orbital travel. Yet tapping into these potentially valuable markets requires careful consideration of numerous competing KPIs, namely: efficiency, safety, performance, and cost.

Refractory metals are renowned for their outstanding heat-resistant capabilities, offering numerous benefits to end-users in the aerospace industry. At H.C. Starck Solutions, we have many years of experience developing refractory metal parts and alloys for customers in aerospace and defence markets.

Tungsten: Refractory Metal Balance Weights

In our recent post, we described tungsten as one of the go-to refractory metal for aerospace and defence applications, primarily due to its combined high-temperature resistance and density. Tungsten heavy alloy (WHA) offers the benefits of high  density, machinability and excellent mechanical properties that make it an excellent choice for specific aerospace applications. We offer a wide range of WHA vibration dampeners and balance weights for fixed and rotary wing aircraft, helping engineers and OEMs develop tomorrow’s high-performance aerospace designs.

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Niobium Refractory Metals: Propulsion Components

A transition metal with an optimal combination of low density and a high melting point, niobium can be used to form exceptionally strong alloys which are inextricably linked to recent, explosive growth in the aerospace market. These are widely used to generate parts such as gas turbines after burner flaps shields and rocket nozzles.

C-103 is a niobium-hafnium-titanium refractory metal alloy for air and space propulsion systems that retains its outstanding strength at peak temperatures of up to 1482°C (2700°F). This superb temperature-stability also extends to cryogenic conditions, enabling C-103 to withstand high-frequency vibrations typical in satellite applications.

Molybdenum Refractory Alloys: Forging Dies

While pure molybdenum offers exceptional chemical integrity in demanding conditions, few refractory metal alloys match titanium-zirconium-molybdenum (TZM) when it comes to long-lasting performance in demanding isothermal forging dies. H.C. Starck Solutions’ world-leading isothermal forging products offer an unparalleled combination of mechanical properties to manufacturers of aircraft turbine engine disc and fan blade forging.

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Refractory Metals from H.C. Starck Solutions

H.C. Starck Solutions is founded on 100 years of excellence in the field of refractory metals engineering for demanding areas of application. If you would like to know more about any of the products we have discussed in this article, simply contact a member of the team today.