Materials science and engineering professor Shen Dillion uses electron microscopy and targeted laser heating for ultra-high temperature testing of aeronautical materials. (Photo by Steph Adams)

University of Illinois researchers have demonstrated a new method for testing microscopic aeronautical materials at ultra-high temperatures. The test combines two commonly used tools in a unique way. Using a transmission electron microscope and targeted laser heating, they were able to see and control where and how the material deformed at the highest temperature possible before the sample evaporated.

As proof of concept, zirconium dioxide – used in fuel cells and thermal barrier coatings – was tested at temperatures up to 2050 degrees Celsius.