Aerospace Materials Optimisation Using Nanomechanical Testing

Topics Covered

     Gas Turbines
The NanoTest Vantage
Applications of the NanoTest Vantage System in the Aerospace Industry
About Micro Materials


Advanced materials selected for use in aerospace applications have been chosen for the ability to operate in harsh environments. For this reason, researchers are striving to develop more advanced materials and coatings to improve the environmental and commercial performance of gas turbine engines. These advances will lead to reduced fuel consumption and emissions.

Gas Turbines

One way to achieve this is to increasing turbine entry temperature. This in turn requires more efficient thermal barrier coatings (TBCs) to protect the components from the increased temperature, so efficiency and reliability are closely interlinked. Microstructural optimisation and optimal wear resistance are properties that must be taken into careful consideration when designing components for improved efficiency and reliability.


Avionics are subjected to extreme thermal cycling conditions. These harsh operating conditions can impact the life span of such components. They differ markedly from conditions that are encountered on the ground and result in the formation of intermetallic phases in solder joints and can induce brittleness and compromise joint integrity.

The NanoTest Vantage

The NanoTest Vantage system from Micro Materials combines several nanomechanical testing techniques into a single instrument. It can also operate at temperatures up to 750°C which means that it is being used increasingly to characterise high temperature and high performance materials and components such as airframes and avionics across the aerospace industry.

Figure 1. The NanoTest Vantage System from Micro Materials

Provided in the following figure are some typical results from a creep test performed on an aircraft grade titanium alloy.

Figure 2. Creep behaviour of titanium

Figure 2. shows nanoindentation creep of Ti6Al4V alloy at 25ºC and 650ºC. Two repeat tests are shown at each temperature to demonstrate the reproducibility of the NanoTest.

It is also possible to study the creep behaviour of superalloys with this same technique up to elevated temperatures of 750ºC and for extended test times, due to the NanoTest’s industry leading thermal drift stability.

Applications of the NanoTest Vantage System in the Aerospace Industry

The NanoTest Vantage system has been used to characterise and optimise such things as:

  • PVD thermal barrier coatings
  • Lead-free solders
  • Machining of hard-to-cut aerospace alloys
  • C/C composites
  • Polymer-derived ceramic composites
  • Plasma-sprayed TBCs
  • Superalloys
  • CNT-epoxy composites
  • Ti metal matrix composites
  • PVD coatings to replace hard chrome

About Micro Materials

Established in 1988 Micro Materials has continually been at the forefront of innovation, with our pioneering approach leading to three world firsts:

  • The first commercial nanoscale impact tester, for erosive wear, toughness and contact fatigue.
  • The first commercial high temperature nanoindentation stage, capable of reaching temperatures up to 750°C.
  • The first liquid cell, allowing the testing of samples which are fully immersed in a fluid.

Micro Materials provide innovative, versatile nanomechanical test instrumentation, and respond to developments in applications in response to customer and market requirements. The integrity, reliability and accuracy of our equipment is paramount, as is our relationship with our users.

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