The fabrication of improved ceramic-matrix composites will require a better understanding of processing variables and how they control the development of the composite microstructure. Noninvasive, high-resolution methods of x-ray tomography have been used to measure the growth of silicon carbide in a woven Nicalon-fiber composite during chemical vapor infiltration. The high spatial resolution allows one to measure the densification within individual fiber tows and to follow the closure of macroscopic pores in situ. The experiments provide a direct test of a recently proposed model that describes how the surface area available for matrix deposition changes during infiltration. The measurements indicate that this surface area is independent of the fiber architecture and location within the preform and is dominated by large-scale macroporosity during the final stages of composite consolidation. The measured surface areas are in good agreement with the theoretical model.
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