Can China finally solve its military jet engine problems? A new material might just do the trick.

J-20 stealth fighter

China says it has made significant progress in improving its military jet engines – a long-standing problem that has hampered its military modernisation programme.

State media reported that it has developed a new coating material for turbines that helps “fill a technological gap” and will help increase the thrust power in the engines.

The membrane designed by the Yuanke Energy Saving and Environmental Protection Technology Development Company in Hebei province can withstand temperatures of 1,800 Celsius, Guangming Daily Online reported, and will help protect them from corrosion and ensure a higher power output.

“It fills the technological gap in the application of aero-engine turbine blades in this field for China, breaking the international monopoly,” the reports said.

The country’s main fighter jet engine, the WS-10, can withstand temperatures of around 1,470 Celsius and the improvement could help significantly improve the engine’s output power.

Fan blades have long been an Achilles’ heel in China’s programme to develop jet engines.

The new coating is designed to withstand higher temperatures and operate more effectively in desert conditions. Photo: Weibo
The new coating is designed to withstand higher temperatures and operate more effectively in desert conditions. Photo: Weibo

In a most notorious example, delays in the development of a new engine for the air force’s most advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter jet the J-20 have slowed production of the planes.

Scientists have spent years struggling to get the WS-15 engine designed for the planes to work properly – largely because the blades keep overheating at high speeds – and the PLA air force has been forced to use Russian-made engines or a modified version of the WS-10 – both of which reduce the plane’s stealth and combat capabilities.

The new coating is made of fullerene, a football-shaped carbon molecule, that the makers say will have a service life of 2,000 hours and has anti-corrosion properties.

As well as being able to withstand the temperatures required to allow the J-20 to operate at its full capabilities, if proven to work, this new material could also double the working efficiency of the aero engines in desert conditions.

This is significant because the airspace in such environments is high in elements such as calcium, manganese, aluminium, silicon, which react with the engines and can damage the blades, the report said.

In 2019, the same developer in 2019 also produced a similar technology for helicopter blades, which could also improve the performance of military helicopters in desert conditions.

Can China finally solve its military jet engine problems? A new material might just do the trick – South China Morning Post

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Categories: Defence & Aerospace

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