Author:Bradley, Keith
Position:Argonne National Laboratory

The Defense Department ranks hypersonic propulsion as its number one technical priority. Foreign superpowers also are developing the technology because hypersonic vehicles flying at Mach 5 could avoid detection, tracking and interception.

The Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory helps bolster national security via scientific research in three hypersonics-related disciplines: complex aerodynamics, propulsion and materials science.

Bolstering this expertise are the laboratory's unique experimental capabilities in hard X-ray science, modeling and simulation, and high performance scientific computing, all offered through on-site user facilities.

Flying at Mach 5 or faster requires propulsion systems different from those of modern aircraft. Argonne's hard X-ray capability, called the advanced photon source, sees through hardware components into the inner workings of a hypersonic jet engine to unravel the mysteries of complex flows and combustion without disrupting performance. This capability provides a path to the optimum design of hypersonic systems.

Argonne's research also informs the design and manufacture of exotic composites and ceramics that help hypersonic aircraft withstand the stresses created by atmospheric drag. It's difficult to predict the behavior of such materials under actual operating conditions. Our expertise in experimentation and high performance scientific computing allow us to predict the performance of engineered materials before full-scale flights take place.

Some hypersonic jet engine components can only be produced using additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing--another leading area of Argonne expertise.

The mesoscale structure of materials produced via additive manufacturing determines their bulk properties, which are very different from the structures that result from conventional production methods. The advanced photon source can actually image the solidification of the metal as it happens, permitting the...

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