Titanium Aluminides and Their Importance in Efficient Aerospace Engines


Plane wing by bottlein via pixabay.com

Electric airplanes really sound exotic and forward-thinking, but we’re far from a commercial airplane with this kind of propulsion. The problem is batteries – they are very, very heavy for an airplane. That’s why focusing on improving the existing technologies for the reduction of the carbon footprint of airplanes has become even more important in the past decade.

This is specifically true for the engines used in the aerospace industry. In order to extract more power with less fuel, engineers design modern engines to work on a lean mixture, or in other words, with more air and less fuel. The problem is, lean-burn engines work at even higher temperatures, which puts a lot of strain on the materials. Remember – those materials not only need to sustain very high temperatures, but they should also be lighter than before, as heavier materials will negate the improvements made by the lean-burn design.

Titanium Aluminides are part of the heat-resistant superalloys family and are widely used in modern airplane engines. These materials were first used in the Formula 1 race cars and are now an integral part of the aerospace industry. More precisely, they are used for turbine and compressor blades, where the lower weight is even more important. Compared to the previously used nickel alloys, Titanium Aluminides have the same strength and corrosion resistance, and only half the weight.

Some of the downsides of Titanium Aluminides are the low ductility, which can be mitigated by careful design with the Design for Manufacturability principles and precise machining. This lengthens the production time of Titanium Aluminide parts, especially given the tight tolerances in the aerospace industry.

Still, Titanium Aluminide materials are one of the most important parts of the eco-friendly airplanes we’ve seen recently and the higher production costs are counteracted by the lower fuel costs in the long run. The continued improvements made to manufacturing processes will only increase the use of Titanium Aluminides and strengthen their place in the aerospace industry for the years to come.

Bianca Van der Watt

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