A custom-built furnace that can heat materials to around 3000 degrees celsius has been installed at The University of Queensland (UQ) to build components for Australia’s space industry.
The furnace allows UQ researchers to make the next generation of ultra-high temperature composite materials for hypersonic flight.
Hypersonic vehicles travel more than five times faster than the speed of sound, and Associate Professor Michael Heitzmann said the vehicles must be made from materials that can withstand extremely high temperatures caused by aerodynamic heating.
“That’s where UQ and our new furnace at the Research Centre for Advanced Materials Processing and Manufacturing – or AMPAM comes in,” he said.
“We are pioneering CNC manufacturing in Australia – it is a rare class of material because it’s extremely lightweight and has exceptional heat resistance.”
“This is a very important sovereign capability and an important puzzle piece in establishing an Australian space and hypersonics industry,” Heitzmann said.
The components made in the German-manufactured furnace will be used by companies such as Brisbane-based aerospace manufacturer, Hypersonix Launch Systems, which specialises in hypersonic technology and scramjet engines.
Hypersonix manufacturing lead, Sam Grieve, says the UQ team would produce an engine part for the DART AE, which is a three-metre-long, single-use vehicle, powered by a hydrogen-fuelled SPARTAN scramjet engine.
“Normal metal alloys would fail at that temperature, so we need high-performance lightweight materials to ensure the engine will survive in flight,” Grieve said.
Dr. Heitzmann says AMPAM was passionate about supporting UQ’s industry partners.
“The companies we work with are at the forefront of Australia’s efforts to achieve access to space or prolonged hypersonic flight, which is a milestone achievement,” he said.
“The investment in our capabilities enhances the potential for our partners to deliver real impact and puts our students in touch with space-age manufacturing technologies.”