Text Size
Technology Opportunity: High Efficiency Tantalum-based Ceramic Composite (HETC) Structures


NASA has developed High-Efficiency Tantalum-based ceramics (HETC) composite structures that are suitable for use in thermal protection systems. These composite structures have high-efficiency surfaces (low catalytic efficiency and high-emittance), thereby reducing heat flux to a spacecraft during planetary re-entry. These low catalytic efficiency and high-emittance ceramic materials were developed in order to increase the capability of a Toughened Uni-Piece Fibrous Insulation (TUFI)-like thermal protection system, with its high-impact resistance, to temperatures above 3000° F. (1650° C.). These ceramics have been applied to various aerodynamic configurations, such as wedge, wing- leading segment and conventional tile shapes used on high-speed atmospheric entry vehicles. In addition, this family of tantalum-based ceramics exhibits low catalytic efficiency to atom recombination during exposure to high-energy dissociated hypersonic flow.

This invention is available for licensing from NASA’s space program to benefit U.S. industry.


• Impervious to hot gas penetration
• Survives high heat fluxes 3000 ° F. and above
• Light weight
• Low cost to fabricate and maintain
• Performs at high-efficiency during hypersonic Earth atmospheric entry
• Easier to design
• Resistant to erosion and/or impact damage
• Provides a composite insulating structure


Technology Detail

The various embodiments of this technology include insulating composites capable of surviving high heating rates and large thermal gradients in the aeroconvective heating environment that entry vehicles are exposed to characteristically. The tantalum-based ceramics contain tantalum disilicide, borosilicate glass and, optionally, molybdenum disilicide. The components are milled, along with a processing aid to facilitate sintering, then applied to a surface of a porous substrate, such as a fibrous or open-pored silica, carbon, aluminosilicate, silicon carbide or silicon oxycarbide substrate, as well as other substrates of silicon/carbon compositions. Following application, the coating is then sintered on the substrate. The composite structure is substantially impervious to hot gas penetration and capable of surviving high heat fluxes.

Commercial Applications

• Reentry vehicles
• Aircraft
• Spacecraft
• Turbine engines
• Race cars
• Automobiles
• Heating elements for furnaces
• Any application that require thermal protection surfaces


This technology has been patented (U.S. Patent 7,767,305). Reference: ARC-14743-1.

Licensing and Partnering Opportunities

NASA’s Technology Transfer Program seeks to transfer this technology out of NASA’s space program to benefit U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to inquire about licensing possibilities for this technology for commercial applications.

For More Information

If you would like more information about this technology, please contact:
Technology Partnerships Division
NASA Ames Research Center

Printable Fact Sheet: High Efficiency Tantalum-based Ceramic Composite (HETC) Structures


Image Token: 
Thermal Protection System Material Vehicle Applications
Thermal Protection System Material Vehicle Applications
Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: November 28th, 2014
Page Editor: Yael Kovo