Gas-turbine engine development for the aerospace industry continues to strive for improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and a reduction in noise at take off. This development effort demands materials, which can tolerate increasingly high operating temperatures while retaining their mechanical strength. Nickel-based superalloys are widely used in gas turbines and much effort has previously gone into understanding the relationship between composition, microstructure and properties. However, the scope for further developing nickel-based alloys is diminishing and therefore the rate of improvement of aeroengine technology is decreasing. There is, therefore, an opportunity to investigate alternative lightweight alloy systems, which may also be able to operate under high temperatures, handle greater stresses and remain in service for longer.
In the UK, the aerospace sector has been recognised as a key part of the country's manufacturing base and has been identified for government support through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which will deploy £2 billion over the next seven years to improve efficiency and environmental performance.
Ilika uses high throughput, or combinatorial, techniques which involve the rapid synthesis of large numbers of different structurally-related materials in a few automated processing steps. Ilika is being supported by a grant from Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) and is working together with Dr Howard Stone’s group at Cambridge University and Diamond Light Source. Rolls-Royce is participating in the programme steering committee and has confirmed their commitment to this area of research.
In September 2016, this paper outlining the interim findings of the screening programme was presented at the Superalloys 2016 conference. Click here (to download PDF)