The technology of chemical vapor infiltration (CVI) has progressed dramatically over the past twenty-five years and stands now as the leading process for fabrication of high temperature structures using ceramic matrix composites. Modeling techniques also have advanced from extensions of catalyst theory to full 3-D finite element code with provision for temperature and pressure gradients. These modeling efforts offer insight into critical factors in the CVI process, suggest opportunities for further advances in process technology and provide a tool for integrating the design and manufacture of advanced components.
Early modeling identified the competition between reaction and diffusion in the CVI process and the resulting trade-off between densification rate and uniformity. Modeling of forced flow/thermal gradient CVI showed how the evolution of material transport properties provides a self-optimizing feature to this process variation.
“What-if” exercises with CVI models point toward potential improvements from tailoring of the precursor chemistry and development of special preform architectures.
As a link between component design and manufacture, CVI modeling can accelerate successful application of ceramic composites to advanced aerospace and energy components.