Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Boesl

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Arvind Agarwal

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-Chair

Third Advisor's Name

Zhe Cheng

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Wenzhi Li

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Sudipta Seal

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Oxidation, Hafnium carbide, Tantalum carbide, solid solutions, spark plasma sintering

Date of Defense



Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) possess extremely high melting points, around 3900 oC, which are the highest among the known materials. TaC and HfC exhibit superior oxidation resistance under oxygen deficient and rich environments, respectively. A versatile material can be expected by forming solid solutions of TaC and HfC. However, the synthesis of fully dense solid solution carbide is a challenge due to their intrinsic covalent bonding which makes sintering challenging.

The aim of the present work is to synthesize full dense TaC-HfC solid solutions by spark plasma sintering with five compositions: pure HfC, HfC-20 vol.% TaC (T20H80), HfC- 50 vol.% TaC (T50H50), HfC- 80 vol.% TaC (T80H20), and pure TaC. To evaluate the oxidation behavior of the solid solutions carbides in an environment that simulates the various applications, an oxygen rich, plasma assisted flow experiment was developed. While exposed to the plasma flow, samples were exposed to a temperature of approximately 2800 oC with a gas flow speed greater than 300 m/s. Density measurements confirm near full density was achieved for all compositions, with the highest density measured in the HfC-contained samples, all consolidated without sintering aids. Confirmation of solid solution was completed using x-ray diffraction, which had an excellent match with the theoretical values computed using Vegard’s Law, which confirmed the formation of the solid solutions. The solid solution samples showed much improved oxidation resistance compared to the pure carbide samples, and the T50H50 samples exhibited the best oxidation resistance of all samples. The thickness of the oxide scales in T50H50 was reduced more than 90% compared to the pure TaC samples, and more than 85% compared to the pure HfC samples after 5 min oxidation tests. A new Ta2Hf6O17 phase was found to be responsible for the improved oxidation performance. Additionally, the structure of HfO2 scaffold filled with molten Ta2O5 was also beneficial to the oxidation resistance by limiting the availability of oxygen.





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