Image of carbon fiber pieces
Professor Zhiyong (Richard) Liang and research faculty member Ayou Hao holding pieces of carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites with a protective heat shield made of a carbon nanotube sheet that was heated to a temperature of 1900 °C.

The world of aerospace increasingly relies on carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites to build the structures of satellites, rockets, and jet aircraft. But the life of those materials is limited by how they handle heat.

Engineers developed a heat shield that better protects those extremely fast machines. The team used carbon nanotubes to build the heat shields. Sheets of those nanotubes (buckypaper) were soaked in a resin made of a compound called phenol to create the lightweight, flexible material.