Researchers from Purdue University are part of a team that has received a nearly $10 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory for the research and development of materials and structures for hypersonic vehicles. The team, led by the University of Dayton Research Institute, also includes researchers from the University of Tennessee.

Purdue will use about $1.4 million of the three-year contract to perform wind tunnel tests and associated computer modeling. Steven Schneider, professor in Purdue's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, says the hypersonic vehicles, which travel faster than five times the speed of sound, experience significant thermal and aerodynamic loads.

"Designing vehicles that can survive extreme environmental stresses is critical but challenging, requiring unique structural configurations and advanced materials," said Schneider. "UDRI will focus on understanding the mechanical and thermal loads experienced by hypersonic vehicle structures, then work to identify the best materials and create preliminary designs for select airframe structures."

Schneider says Purdue operates a wind tunnel that is capable of running "quietly" while conducting experiments in airstreams that travel at Mach 6, or about 4,600 miles per hour.