Nasa invents ‘revolutionary’ material 1,000 times better than state-of-the art spaceship alloys

Alloy GRX-810 can be used to build better rocket engines capable of withstanding far harsher conditions

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 05 May 2022 11:37 BST
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Nasa scientists have invented a new metal alloy that is 1,000 times more durable than current state-of-the-art materials used in aviation and space exploration.

The US space agency believes that Alloy GRX-810 could revolutionise space travel, as it can withstand far harsher conditions than existing materials used within rocket engines.

The material has twice the strength, three-and-a-half times the flexibility and more than 1,000 times the durability under stress at high temperatures.

“This breakthrough is revolutionary for materials development,” said Dale Hopkins, deputy project manager of Nasa’s Transformational Tools and Technologies project

“New types of stronger and more lightweight materials play a key role as Nasa aims to change the future of flight. Previously, an increase in tensile strength usually lowered a material’s ability to stretch and bend before breaking, which is why our new alloy is remarkable.”

The new alloy’s composition was determined using computational models, before 3D printing technology allowed Nasa engineers to create a turbine engine combustor – a vital component found in rocket engines that serves as a fuel-air mixer.

“Applying these two processes has drastically accelerated the rate of our materials development. We can now produce new materials faster and with better performance than before,” said Tim Smith, a material research scientist at Nasa’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and one of the inventors of this new alloy.

“What used to take years through a trial-and-error process, now takes a matter of weeks or months to make discoveries.”

The manufacturing process is also more efficient, cost effective and cleaner than conventional methods.

Nasa said the alloy would result in “vast performance improvements” and would have “major implications for the future of sustainable flight”.

In a press release detailing the discovery, the space agency said: “Designers can now contemplate tradeoffs they couldn’t consider before, without sacrificing performance.”

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