Via Gizmag, news came out about the UK-based company Zircotec that developed what it claims to be the first-ever flexible ceramic heat-shield material, opening the door for ceramic materials to be used in a far wider range of automotive, aerospace and industrial applications.
The application of ceramic coatings to metallic and composite components traditionally uses plasma spraying. This results in coatings that are applied to the material surface in a lightweight layer and can reduce surface temperatures by up to 33 percent, but the process entails treating parts directly using a plasma torch whose jet reaches temperatures in the 14,000ºK range.
After more than five years of research, Zircotec says it has developed a new plasma-spray process in which the ceramic material is sprayed on the surface of aluminum foil. While the platelets are close-packed to provide comprehensive heat protection, this structure allows the foil to be bent and manipulated to suit different shapes. It can even be folded tightly through 180 degrees without damaging the thermal barrier.
The product, dubbed ZircoFlex, will allow ceramic coatings to be installed in-line to parts and assemblies during manufacture, even in high volume applications, without disrupting production flow. And the advantages aren’t limited to production lines. The company says parts can now be upgraded without needing to dismantle or decommission equipment.
Zircotec expects early applications for ZircoFlex to come from the automotive industry, where the foil can be used to protect sensitive components from heat, and the motorsport sector. It is suitable for applications with temperatures up to 500ºC.
The material is 0.25 mm thick, weighs 460g/m2, comes on a roll, and can be cut and installed by hand or machine.
Zircotec says it also researching a range of alternative substrates.