Sylvia Johnson to provide new perspectives on thermal protection systems at ICACC’16 | The American Ceramic Society

Sylvia Johnson to provide new perspectives on thermal protection systems at ICACC’16

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[Image above] Tiles on the Endeavour space shuttle. Credit: Doran; Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Let’s not beat the around the bush—the International Conference and Expo on Advanced Ceramics and Composites (ICACC) is the “best ceramics meeting around.”

The upcoming ICACC’16, Jan, 24–29, 2016, also has in store a special celebration to commemorate the meeting’s 40th anniversary. As if you needed another reason to attend ICACC’16—the 40th Jubilee celebration will include special events, a commemorative book, and even a unique symposium.

The 40th Jubilee symposium will highlight the status of and future prospects for engineered ceramics, gleaning expert insights from its impressive lineup of all-invited speakers.

To give you a preview of what’s in store in this special symposium, we’ve asked the invited experts to give you a little glimpse into their talks.

First up is Sylvia Johnson, chief materials technologist for the Entry Systems and Technology Division at NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, Calif.), who will present “Thermal protection materials and systems: Past and future.”

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Sylvia Johnson also delivered an excellent talk at MS&T15 in October. Credit: ACerS

Below are Johnson’s responses (SJ) to our questions.

Give us a preview of your talk—what will be the overarching theme?

SJ: I’ll talk about thermal protection materials that have been used and identify the challenges for upcoming space exploration missions, including descriptions of the types of materials and some examples. I’ll also present some new directions for thermal protection systems.

What is the biggest current challenge in this area of research?

SJ: The biggest challenge is in understanding all requirements that are placed on the systems, and then developing materials to fulfill those needs. All this has to be done on the ground, with nearly all testing done in ground-based facilities even though these materials will be used in completely different environments, such as entry through atmospheres.

What would readers be surprised to know about this area of research?

SJ: Materials for the most demanding entries are not high-temperature ceramics, but ablative materials that actually burn on entry.

What is the take-home message you want attendees to get from your talk?

SJ: Thermal protection materials are a special class of materials because of their use conditions. We have to look at them a bit differently than many other materials, because traveling at high speeds through the atmosphere is extremely challenging.


ICACC’16 has lots more in store—peruse the full lineup here. And don’t forget to make plans for a little extra fun in the sun while you’re in Florida, too.

Registration prices go up after Dec. 23, so sign up today to save!