Ultra-efficient 3D printed catalysts could help solve the overheating challenge in hypersonic aircraft and offer a revolutionary solution to thermal management in countless industries.
Developed by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the highly versatile catalysts are economical to manufacture and easy to scale.
The team’s lab demonstrations show that the 3D printed catalysts could potentially be used to power hypersonic flight while simultaneously cooling the system.
The research is published in the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Chemical communications.
Lead researcher Dr Selvakannan Periasamy said their work tackles one of the biggest challenges in hypersonic aircraft development: controlling the incredible heat that builds up when planes fly at more than five times the speed. sound.
“Our lab tests show that the 3D printed catalysts we have developed hold great promise for fueling the future of hypersonic flight,” said Periasamy.
“Powerful and efficient, they offer an exciting potential solution for thermal management in aviation – and beyond.
“With further development, we hope that this new generation of ultra-efficient 3D printed catalysts can be used to transform any industrial process where overheating is a pervasive challenge.”
Need of speed
Only a few experimental aircraft have achieved hypersonic speed (defined as above Mach 5 – over 6,100 km per hour or 1.7 km per second).
In theory, a hypersonic plane could travel from London to New York in less than 90 minutes, but many challenges remain in the development of hypersonic air travel, such as extreme heat levels.
The first author and doctoral researcher, Roxanne Hubesch, said that using fuel as a coolant was one of the most promising experimental approaches to the overheating problem.
“Fuels that can absorb heat while propelling an aircraft are a key goal for scientists, but this idea relies on heat-consuming chemical reactions that require highly efficient catalysts,” Hubesch said.
“In addition, the heat exchangers where the fuel comes into contact with the catalysts must be as small as possible, due to the strict volume and weight constraints in hypersonic airplanes.”
To make the new catalysts, the team 3D printed tiny metal alloy heat exchangers and coated them with synthetic minerals called zeolites.
The researchers reproduced on a laboratory scale the extreme temperatures and pressures experienced by the fuel at hypersonic speeds, to test the functionality of their design.
Miniature chemical reactors
As 3D printed structures heat up, some of the metal moves within the zeolite structure, a process crucial to the unprecedented efficiency of the new catalysts.
“Our 3D printed catalysts are like miniature chemical reactors and what makes them so incredibly efficient is this mixture of metals and synthetic minerals,” Hubesch said.
“This is an exciting new direction for catalysis, but we need more research to fully understand this process and identify the best combination of metal alloys for the greatest impact.”
Next steps for the research team at RMIT’s Center for Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry (CAMIC) include optimizing 3D printed catalysts by studying them with X-ray synchrotron techniques and other analytical methods. thorough.
The researchers also hope to expand the work’s potential applications for controlling air pollution for vehicles and miniature devices to improve indoor air quality – particularly important in the management of airborne respiratory viruses like COVID – 19.
CAMIC director Distinguished Professor Suresh Bhargava said the trillion dollar chemical industry relies heavily on old catalytic technology.
“This third generation of catalysis can be linked with 3D printing to create new, complex designs that were not possible before,” Bhargava said.
“Our new 3D printed catalysts represent a radical new approach that has real potential to revolutionize the future of catalysis around the world.”
The 3D printed catalysts were produced using Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) technology at the digital manufacturing facility, which is part of RMIT’s advanced manufacturing area.
Source of the story:
Material provided by RMIT University. Original written by Gosia Kaszubska. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.