GE has opened America’s first silicon carbide plant in Huntsville Alabama, where its product will be used to produce ceramic matrix composites used in aerospace manufacturing. The facility is estimated cost $200 million and will employ approximately 300 people. GE has diversified its hiring profile for the plant with engineers coming from a variety of backgrounds including petroleum engineering and consumer goods.
The plant will primarily manufacture ceramic matrix composites for jet engine and turbine based applications. Ceramic matrix composites (CMC) are used to fabricate strong and light components, perfect for the aerospace and aviation industries. Additionally, CMC components are great for thermal regulation and can handle a high number of termal cycles, making them ideal in the high temperature and high stress environment of turbine engines. The plant will be the only currently operating producer of ceramic matrix composites in the world, but it will not be the only. Use of ceramic matrix composites is expected to increase tenfold as its adoption by GE Aviation and Boeing company applications spreads to gas turbine and jet engine parts. As CMC technology improves, it is expected to phase out the heavier alternative of metal alloys.
GE’s primary customer will be the United States Department of Defense, and CFM international. CFM is a joint venture between GE and Safran which produces turbine shrouds for the LEAP and GE9X engines. These cutting edge engines use ceramic matrix composites in the turbine and combustion sections to reduce overall weight and increase internal combustion pressure. A higher pressure increases temperature which leads to more complete combustion which increases thrust and lowers emissions. As more opportunities arise for the use of CMC’s we will continue to see lighter and more efficient engines powering the wide-body aircraft of the next generation.