The SR-71 Blackbird is still the fastest manned, air-breathing aircraft ever made. It travelled at three and a half times the speed of sound and could fly at altitudes of 85,000 ft. To achieve that it needed a power to weight ratio never before seen in an aircraft. The team at Lockheed’s Skunk Works turned to a newly developed group of materials. Titanium alloys.
The SR-71 pioneered the use of titanium alloy in the aerospace industry. 92% of this aeroplane was constructed from this material which gave it an insane power to weight ratio. The material choice was instrumental in allowing this incredible machine to fly at mach 3.5
Plasma nitriding is a high tech treatment which gives metal parts incredibly hard surfaces. It’s a low pressure process carried out in chamber filled with a mixture of nitrogen and hydrogen. A very high voltage is applied between the component and the chamber wall. This generates a purple plasma around the part. On the surface of the part, nitrogen-rich nitrides are formed and decompose, releasing active nitrogen which penetrates the metal surface and forms a hard shell in the top layers of the part. Plasma nitriding allows modification of the surface according to the desired properties. Tailor made layers and hardness profiles can be achieved by adapting the gas mixture.
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