Ceramic matrix composites are the emerging material of choice for structures that will see temperatures above ~1,500 °C in hostile environments, as for example in next-generation gas turbines and hypersonic-flight applications. The safe operation of applications depends on how small cracks forming inside the material are restrained by its microstructure. As with natural tissue such as bone and seashells, the tailored microstructural complexity of ceramic matrix composites imparts them with mechanical toughness, which is essential to avoiding failure. Yet gathering three-dimensional observations of damage evolution in extreme environments has been a challenge. Using synchrotron X-ray computed microtomography, we have fully resolved sequences of microcrack damage as cracks grow under load at temperatures up to 1,750 °C. Our observations are key ingredients for the high-fidelity simulations used to compute failure risks under extreme operating conditions.
At a glance
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