Companies are starting to manufacture turbine blades from titanium aluminide. This makes the blades more lightweight, resulting in less energy output. A titanium aluminide blade weighs about half as much as a traditional blade made of nickel superalloy.
Three principal compounds are formed by titanium aluminides: TiAl, TiAl2 and TiAl3. Dixon Chandley, Use of Gamma Titanium Aluminide for Automotive Engine Valves, 18 (1) Metallurgical Sci. & Tech. 8 (2000). “Gamma titanium aluminide-based alloys (y-TiAl) have become an important contender for high-temperature structural applications in the aircraft industry to replace current nickel-based superalloys as the material of choice for low-pressure turbine blades.” L. Patriarca, Fatigue Crack Growth of a Gamma Titanium Aluminide Alloy, 9th Youth Symposium on Experimental Solid Mechanics, 2010, 36. y-TiAl compounds have the highest melting point and therefore are most “useful for engineering purposes.” Chandley, 18 (1) Metallurgical Sci. & Tech. at 8.
Ti-Al was not really used in manufacturing and production until the 2000s. One reason is that it was brittle and therefore “difficult to form and to process”. Daniel Hautmann, Titanium Aluminide–A Class All By Itself, 1 MTU Aero Engines Rept. 27 (2013). Through decades of research work, it was found that brittleness could be tackled “by adjusting the material composition, and manufacturing processes and the design were tailored to suit the material properties.” Id. at 28.
Ti-Al is now revolutionizing the field of aviation and more and more companies are working to incorporate it into their blade manufacturing technology. For instance, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses GE engines that include “titanium aluminide (Ti-Al) blades in the last two stages of the seven-stage low-pressure turbine.” Stephen F. Clark, 787 Propulsion System, 3 Aero Quarterly 10 (2012).