A team of Florida A&M University – Florida State University (FSU) College of Engineering researchers from FSU’s High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) is developing a design for a heat shield made of carbon nanotubes and buckypaper to better protect superfast aircraft.

Superfast aircraft, such as satellites, rockets, and jet aircraft, are often built of carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites that require shielding from heat to extend their lifespan. Existing heat shields are often thick compared to the base they protect, so the HPMI team set out to design and build a very thin skin-like shield that both protects the aircraft and helps support the structure.

Professor Richard Liang, director of HPMI, explained, “Right now, our flight systems are becoming more and more high-speed, even going into hypersonic systems, which are five times the speed of sound. When you have speeds that high, there’s more heat on a surface. Therefore, we need a much better thermal protection system.”