Using advanced computers and a computational technique to simulate physical processes at the atomic level, researchers at Brown University have predicted that a material made from hafnium, nitrogen, and carbon would have the highest known melting point: 4,400 kelvins (7,460 degrees Fahrenheit), about two-thirds the temperature at the surface of the sun.

The computational technique looks at the dynamics of melting as they occur at the nanoscale, in blocks of about 100 atoms. The researchers found that the elements hafnium, tantalum, and carbon (Hf-Ta-C) has a high heat of fusion but a smaller difference between the entropies of the solid and the liquid. When they calculated the melting point using their computational approach, it came out 200 kelvins higher than the experimental record.

Although properties like mechanics and oxidation resistance must be explored, the melting-point data could ultimately lead to high-performance materials for a variety of uses, from gas turbine plating high-speed aircraft heat shields.


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