Low-conductivity, high-toughness thermal barrier coating

Twice the toughness and half the thermal conductivity compared to traditional compositions


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Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory developed a high-performance, multi-component thermal barrier coating for heat engines. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Thermal barrier coatings are essential in preventing component damage in heat engines, such as turbines, jet engines, diesel, and gasoline engines. (Image Credit: andreas160578 on Pixabay)

In hot-sections of gas turbines and other heat engines, high-temperature protective coatings are necessary to protect engine components from degradation and service failure and improve engine reliability and longevity. Thermal barrier coatings are thin ceramic layers, generally applied by plasma-spraying or physical vapor deposition techniques, used to insulate air-cooled metallic components from high-temperature gases. Thermal barrier coatings are designed to be porous to reduce the coating’s thermal conductivity and thus retard the flow of heat from the hot gases to the underlying component surface.

Thermal barrier coatings comprised of zirconia-yttria (ZrO2—Y2O3) have been widely used in more advanced engine systems. As operating temperatures continue to increase, standard zirconia-yttria coating conductivities (approximately 2.5 W/m-K) are too high for use in high-performance, low-emission turbine engines. Destabilization of the zirconia-yttria phases start at temperatures ranging between 1200-1300° C. and may result in the coating’s premature spallation. Additionally, the microstructural stability of the zirconia-yttria coatings remains a significant issue. The coating and component durability are adversely impacted by the degradation of the coating phase structure and properties associated with higher temperature aging effects.

ARL researchers have developed a new thermal barrier coating exhibiting improved toughness and thermal conductivity, i.e., increasing the toughness and decreasing the thermal conductivity. The composition is comprised of a base majority oxide, a first dopant oxide, at least one small and one large rare earth oxide, and a toughening oxide. Compared to traditional thermal barrier coatings, this composition provides approximately twice the toughness with only one-third to one-half the thermal conductivity.

This technology is related to U.S. Patent 7,740,960.

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