High performance carbon-carbon composites
Carbon-carbon composites rank first among ceramic composite materials with a spectrum of properties and applications in various sectors. These composites are made of fibres in various directions and carbonaceous polymers and hydrocarbons as matrix precursors. Their density and properties depend on the type and volume fraction of reinforcement, matrix precursor used and end heat treatment temperature. Composites made with thermosetting resins as matrix precursors possess low densities (1.55–1.75g/cm3) and well-distributed microporosity whereas those made with pitch as the matrix precursor, after densification exhibit densities of 1.8–2.0g/cm3 with some mesopores, and those made by the CVD technique with hydrocarbon gases, possess intermediate densities and matrices with close porosities. The former (resin-based) composites exhibit high flexural strength, low toughness and low thermal conductivity, whereas the latter (pitch- and CVD-based) can be made with very high thermal conductivity (400–700 W/MK) in the fibre direction. Carbon-carbon composites are used in a variety of sectors requiring high mechanical properties at elevated temperatures, good frictional properties for brake pads in high speed vehicles or high thermal conductivity for thermal management applications. However, for extended life applications, these composites need to be protected against oxidation either through matrix modification with Si, Zr, Hf etc. or by multilayer oxidation protection coatings consisting of SiC, silica, zircon etc.