Rajarshi Banerjee stands in the lab

Materials science and engineering researcher Rajarshi Banerjee is rethinking the types of elements that could be used for aircraft, thanks to a new $900,000 research grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

As the sole principal investigator for the grant, Banerjee will study the fundamental research for developing the next generation of high-temperature metallic alloys that could be used in both military and commercial aircraft.

Currently, turbine blades and turbine discs used in the jet engines of aircraft, as well as some other aircraft parts are made using high-temperature metallic materials. These materials are typically developed by combining multiple elements with a single primary element like nickel or titanium. Since the early 2000s, researchers have shifted their approach to designing these metallic materials, instead blending equal parts – or near equal parts – of multiple primary elements together to create High Entropy Alloys (HEAs). By blending the elements together equally, researchers have found that HEAs exhibit better capabilities than metallic materials.

“Research in HEAs has been ongoing for the past two decades and UNT faculty and researchers have contributed in a major way, leading to a worldwide reputation in the field,” said Banerjee, a University Presidential Professor and Regents Professor. “Being able to create new metallic materials that can withstand higher temperatures or have improved mechanical, functional, or even magnetic capabilities is extremely valuable for the ever-growing field of demanding engineering applications.”

Banerjee’s research will focus on pushing the thermal boundaries of HEAs using refractory elements, such as niobium, tantalum, zirconium or hafnium, that haven’t yet been investigated.

“The research here is really very fundamental in nature, but if the results are promising and are implemented, they could make jet engines operate at higher temperatures, in a more fuel-efficient manner, and an aircraft fly faster,” he said.