China needs large supplies of rhenium — a rare metal that increases the temperature-resistance of turbine blades — to design and produce an engine that can handle higher internal temperatures, increasing performance and durability. Perrett claims that China is actually following the global pattern of rhenium consumption because around 80% of the figure is used to produce aviation turbines. The use of rhenium can imply two upward steps in turbine metallurgy, the expert said. It can be used to improve nickel-based superalloys, while those alloys can be formed as single-crystal blades.
Both technologies allow a turbine, especially a high-pressure one, to operate at a greater temperatures, according to Perrett."Rhenium melts at 3,182C (5,759F), compared with 1,455C for nickel," said Perrett, "The improved superalloys are almost certainly earmarked for combat aircraft engines, such as the WS-10 Taihang, which powers the J-10 and J-11 fighters. Chinese production of high-bypass turbofans must be very low, and their performance is not so important."