How a new multimillion research center will accelerate the development of hypersonic air vehicles


Michael Sangid from Purdue University discusses how a new multimillion research center will accelerate the development of hypersonic air vehicles in the USA.

During Spring 2023, the Purdue Applied Research Institute will open the Hypersonics and Applied Research Facility (HARF). This facility is a US$41 million investment by Purdue’s Board of Trustees to accelerate hypersonic innovation and is being built at the West Lafayette campus in Indiana, USA.

Located within the HARF will be the Hypersonics Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center (HAMTC). As executive director of HAMTC, I am responsible for the pioneering R&D programs being undertaken there. Our aim is to enable the next breakthrough in hypersonics using high temperature materials,  additive manufacturing, and joining technologies.

Research work is happening right now in laboratories at Purdue and by the industrial partners under HAMTC, but our move into the HARF will be a major milestone for the University and the field  of hypersonics.

Research within HARF enables us to carry out classified work in secure laboratories on campus. This will enable several of our industrial partners to work with us at a single location, creating an invaluable cluster of expertise in materials, manufacturing, and testing research for hypersonics.

The co-location is key in other ways. The supply chain for hypersonic parts development –making a prototype part from advanced high temperature materials and testing it – can involve covering thousands of miles across the USA and take months, sometimes years.

At the Centre we will have access to the very latest 3-D printing technologies through our collaboration with GE Additive. These large-scale additive manufacturing (AM) machines will be able to print high temperature materials.

Alongside this we will have access to the only Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel in the world and the Hypersonic Pulse (HYPULSE) shock tunnel. The tunnels recreate different scenarios, such as spacecraft re-entry or missile flight through the atmosphere, as well as replicating engine conditions for extremely high-speed propulsion.

Having all these manufacturing and testing facilities in a single place, alongside the industrial partners at HAMTC means we can dramatically reduce the development and testing time for hypersonic prototype parts. It’s going to be an amazing advantage to be able to prototype and mature the technology readiness level of hypersonic components so quickly.

The fundamental enabling technology here is AM, which can now make the complex shapes needed for hypersonic vehicles reliably. We are developing feedstock for AM that has higher temperature capabilities and we will be looking at how to join components together.

We are aiming to transition the first prototypes to industry in two and a half years. Industry may then use them to move forward into initial production phases. Furthermore, with the advances in high temperature materials we will be making, there will be many other applications in energy, transportation and elsewhere.

There has been more funding going into hypersonics research recently to meet US DoD needs, but this isn’t a set of small projects scattered around. HAMTC will take an integrated approach to developing a product, from design, building, and joining to test, with all the people involved in one place.

At Purdue we have the world-leading experience in hypersonics and now the facility to make hypersonics happen, faster than it ever has before.

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