The gas permeability of plasma sprayed yttria-stabilised zirconia coatings has been measured over a range of temperature, using hydrogen and oxygen gas. The permeability was found to be greater for coatings produced with longer stand-off distances, higher chamber pressures and lower torch powers. Porosity levels have been measured using densitometry and microstructural features have been examined using SEM. A model has been developed for prediction of the permeability from such microstructural features, based on percolation theory. Agreement between predicted and measured permeabilities is good. Ionic conduction through the coatings has also been briefly explored. It is concluded that transport of oxygen through the top coat in thermal barrier coating (TBC) systems, causing oxidation of the bond coat, occurs primarily by gas permeation rather than ionic conduction, at least up to temperatures of about 1000°C and probably up to higher temperatures. Top coat permeabilities appreciably below those measured will be required if the rate of bond coat oxidation is to be reduced by cutting the supply of oxygen to the interface.

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