Thermal Protection System
Aerogel-filled Foam Insulation
Ultramet fills an open-cell foam skeleton with ultralow-density aerogel to create a highly insulating and lightweight foam-core thermal protection material that can be economically fabricated into large and complex shapes.
- Low density (0.07 g/cm3 or 4.4 lb/ft3)
- High-temperature capability (4500°F [2482°C])
- Low thermal conductivity (<1 W/m·K at 3600°F)
- Ability to combine with ceramic matrix composite or coated carbon/carbon structural shells to produce an integrated airframe/insulator thermal protection systems
- Foam can be press-fit over complex shapes
Applications of Thermal Protection System
- Hypersonic vehicles (engine and airframe)
- Aerobraking structures for planetary exploration
- Launch vehicle propulsion systems
- Gas turbine and ramjet/scramjet engine components
- Furnace heat recovery units (recuperators)
Aerogel-filled carbon foam TPS panel during 243 second radiant heat test (foam contained within 1″ thick carbon/carbon box)(3500°F hot face, 350°F back face at shutdown
Thin structural shell containing aerogel-filled foam core
The carbon foam serves as an easily machinable structural reinforcement for the low strength aerogel insulator and defines the shape of the component. This approach can also be used with oxide foam and aerogel materials.
The combined density of the foam/aerogel composite insulator is just under 0.07 g/cm3 and has a use temperature approaching 4000°F (2204°C). This combination of materials is effective because although the foam support is highly insulating, the transfer of heat by radiation through the pores dominates at high temperatures, and the carbon aerogel filler minimizes this transfer.
In the foam/aerogel composite, the aerogel exists in discrete cells that are supported by the foam skeleton, so the low structural integrity inherent to aerogels does not impede production of large monolithic structures.