NASA’s New Super-Alloy Could Transform Everything

NASA’s New Super-Alloy Could Transform Everything
NASA’s New Super-Alloy Could Transform Everything

The high-heat alloy is said to last 2,500 times longer than other nickel-base alloys.

May 16, 2024 at 6:47am ET

3 min read

We often see and hear manufacturers say that they’ve used “aerospace-grade” materials in their products. And while a lot of these companies simply use the term as a buzzword, there are quite a few that actually make use of these high-quality, high-resistance materials designed for the industry for enhanced performance and longevity.

Indeed, a lot of the high-quality alloys and composites we interact with on a regular basis first started life in aerospace applications. And NASA’s been working non-stop to push the boundaries of materials science even further. In fact, it just licensed a new super-alloy called GRX-810, and it could hold the key to the future of high-performance machinery.

So, what makes GRX-810 so special?

Well, for starters, it’s a 3D-printable material, so it can be molded and shaped into pretty much any component. Furthermore, it’s said to be a high-temperature material which is more durable and lightweight than existing alloys used in airplane and spacecraft parts.

According to them, it could revolutionize manufacturing, including the powersports industry.

Yes, airplane and spacecraft parts—you read that right. That means that GRX-810 just has to be among the strongest, lightest, and most reliable alloys for it to be used in some of the highest-risk applications known to man. More specifically, GRX-810 is envisioned to aid in developing better liquid rocket engine injectors, combustors, turbines, and hot-section components. These parts can reach temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit–a fifth of the temperature of the surface of the sun.

Dr. Tim Smith, co-inventor of GRX-810, and a materials researcher at NASA Glenn, explained how the new alloy is a groundbreaking feat of technology. “GRX-810 represents a new alloy design space and manufacturing technique that was impossible a few years ago,” he said.

Smith, alongside his colleague Christopher Kantzos, invented GRX-810 using cutting-edge computer modeling and laser 3D-printing that fuses various metals together in a layer-by-layer construction. Tiny particles containing oxygen atoms were spread throughout the alloy to enhance its strength.

As a result, when compared to other nickel-base alloys, NASA says that GRX-810 can endure higher stress and temperatures, and can last a whopping 2,500 times longer. Even better still, it’s up to four times better at flexing before breaking, and twice as resistant to damage from oxidation.

As of the moment, GRX-810 has been licensed for production by four American companies consisting of Carpenter Technology Corporation of Reading, Pennsylvania; Elementum 3D, Inc. of Erie, Colorado; Linde Advanced Material Technologies, Inc. of Indianapolis; and Powder Alloy Corporation of Loveland, Ohio.

Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking. What’s EJ rambling on about aerospace-grade alloys on a powersports website? Well, aerospace-grade materials can be found in pretty much everything that has to do with powersports—from the carbon fiber on your helmets and vehicle bodywork, to the metals and alloys found inside your vehicles’ engines.

What I’m getting at here is the potential a super-alloy like GRX-810 has, not just for mankind’s outer space exploration initiatives, but even for the simpler stuff.

A lot of the materials we encounter on a daily basis started life in the aerospace world.

Today’s high-performance cars, bikes, and powersports vehicles are already pretty damn cutting edge. I mean, nobody really needs a 300-horsepower motorcycle. But seeing the potential a super-alloy like GRX-810 holds could result in some pretty crazy innovations if and when (more likely when) it becomes commercially available.

We could very well be seeing much smaller, more compact engines and motors producing insane amounts of power and torque. And because these components last much longer and are more resistant to wear, these machines can be much more reliable and efficient, too, with lower overall weights, less reciprocating mass, and longer service intervals.

Manufacturers are all about achieving the impossible—ultra-high performance mated with reliability and efficiency. Perhaps a super-alloy like GRX-810 is the key to this.

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