The Elements of Innovation Discovered

GRX-810 licensed to four U.S. companies

Metal Tech News - May 15, 2024

NASA offers opportunity with stellar superalloy set to rocket aerospace to new heights.

After two years since its debut, NASA's GRX-810 superalloy remains poised for transformative takeoff. Crafted through innovative 3D printing and thermodynamic modeling, this material has captivated the aerospace industry. Now, with the agency licensing GRX-810 to four American companies, a future of sturdier, more resilient aircraft and spacecraft components emerges, signaling a giant leap for technological progress.

Owing to the harsh and unforgiving nature of space, NASA's materials research and development efforts aim to enable enhanced mechanical properties in extreme environmental conditions.

NASA/Jordan Salkin

NASA's insignia is being engraved through 3D printing using the GRX-810 superalloy.

GRX-810 is the purported epitome of this, as it boasts "remarkable performance improvements" over many of today's leading alloys, such as Inconel – a nickel-chromium superalloy.

At the time of its reveal, the space agency did not specify what exactly comprised this new superalloy; in a later interview with Inverse, research materials engineer Tim Smith and co-inventor of GRX-810 at NASA's Glenn Research Center described it as primarily made of nickel, cobalt, and chrome.

The difference, however, is that it is laced with nanoscale particles of yttrium, yielding an "oxide-dispersion-strengthened" (ODS) alloy.

"It took us a while to convince ourselves that these results were real. We understood then that, you know, something had changed, and we made an alloy that we were very excited about," Smith told Inverse. "You even have better irradiation properties. So, applications that are higher radiation environments, fission or fusion reactors, things like that, will all benefit by having these oxides dispersed in it."

Smith noted that while NASA and others explored alloys similar to GRX-810 in the past, it was the combination of specific elements and additive manufacturing techniques that endowed GRX-810 with superior properties compared to existing alloys.

To better understand what they had created, the researchers used a fairly common test to examine alloy strength, a "creep test."

This typically involves placing the test material in a high-temperature environment and then putting a static load, weight, or pressure on the material and waiting to see how long it takes to break.

In the study, Smith and his colleagues tested GRX-810 against existing high-performance alloys in a creep test set at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius) with a load of up to 3,000 pounds per square inch. The best of those existing alloys lasted up to about 10 hours in the creep test.

GRX-810 lasted 6,500 hours, "which is somewhere around eight, nine months," he told Inverse.


Compared to other nickel-base alloys, GRX-810 can endure higher temperatures and stress and can last up to 2,500 times longer. Nearly four times better at flexing before breaking and twice as resistant to oxidation damage, GRX-810 appears to be a holy grail of aerospace materials.

With the kinks ironed out, NASA has now licensed its invention to four American companies. According to the space agency, these co-exclusive license agreements will allow the companies to produce and market GRX-810 to airplane and rocket equipment manufacturers, then on to the entire supply chain.

The four co-exclusive licensees are:

Carpenter Technology Corp. – founded in 1889, this legacy Pennsylvania steel company, which happened to provide parts for the Kitty Hawk in the Wright brothers' maiden flight, has a long history of metallurgy. Offering over 500 specialty alloys, this quiet giant of industry will now offer this marvel of a material.

Elementum 3D Inc. – founded in 2014 as an early adopter of additive manufacturing, Colorado-based Elementum already possesses contracts with NASA to 3D print aluminum strong enough to withstand rocket engines. Perhaps due to its success, the space agency has granted Elementum exclusive rights to its newest superalloy.

Linde Advanced Material Technologies Inc. – a global industrial gas and engineering company out of Indiana, Linde AMT's offerings serve a variety of end markets, from chemicals and energy, food and beverages to electronics, healthcare, manufacturing, metals and mining. Operating in more than 80 countries, this global leader now offers a super space alloy.

Powder Alloy Corp. – a privately held firm founded in 1973, Ohio-based Pacific Alloy's business is centered on the manufacturing and distribution of metallic, ceramic, and thermal spray powders and wires that are used in coating enhancement and joining industries. Marketing domestically and globally, it is now the holder of a very exclusive license for GRX-810.


A small turbine engine combustor 3D printed using NASA's GRX-810 superalloy.

GRX-810 is one example of many new technologies NASA's Technology Transfer Program managers review and file for patent protection. The team also works with inventors to find partners interested in commercialization.

"NASA invests tax dollars into research that demonstrates direct benefit to the U.S. and transfers its technologies to industry by licensing its patents," said Amy Hiltabidel, licensing manager at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

With the preliminary work advanced enough to license and the wealth of resources available through its licensees, it may be only a few short years before GRX-810 is part of future space missions.

"Adoption of this alloy will lead to more sustainable aviation and space exploration," said Dale Hopkins, deputy project manager of NASA's Transformational Tools and Technologies project. "This is because jet engine and rocket components made from GRX-810 will lower operating costs by lasting longer and improving overall fuel efficiency."


Reader Comments(0)