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About Ceramics

When we hear the word ceramics, we are inclined to think of tiles, pots, art-ware, dinnerware,
pottery, brick and toilets. These products are normally referred to as customary or silicate-based
ceramics. Whilst these conventional products have been and continue to be, important to the
civilization, a new class of ceramics has transpired - that most people are unaware of. These advanced
or technical or modern or industrial ceramics are being used for applications such as space shuttle tile,
engine components, artificial bones and teeth, computers and other electronic components and
cutting tools, just to name a few.

Ceramics: An introduction & history

The word Ceramic is derived from a Greek word Keramos meaning potter or pottery. Keramos in turn
was originated from a Sanskrit root meaning to burn. Hence, the word Keramos was to infer
burned substance or burned earth.

Ceramics have been accompanying the human race since ancient times. Archaeologists have unearthed
man-made ceramics that date back to at least 25,000 BC. Primitive Ceramics were made of basic earthen
materials like clay and were burnt in domes. Human inventiveness gradually started with firing these
articles at higher temperatures to attain harder Ceramic articles. This desire of getting harder substances
steered the human races to invent better firing techniques. The human zest and natures mystery have
come a long way from basic earthen wares to modern world advanced ceramics.

As Ceramics are made of earthen materials, they are the most compatible products with the nature.
Ceramics are the only materials which are nature friendly and therefore they are free from decays due to
gradual natural impacts like corrosion, erosion, abrasion, thermal shocks, etc. Even though Ceramics are
brittle; they are the only materials which subsist to see the races to come. Hence, we may call them a
strong-fragile part of human life.

Definition & Chemistry Type

Ceramics can be defined as inorganic, non-metallic materials that are typically produced using clays and
other minerals from the earth or chemically processed powders.

Ceramics are typically crystalline in nature and are compounds formed between metallic and
non-metallic elements such as aluminum and oxygen (alumina Al2O3), silicon and nitrogen (silicon
nitride Si3N4), silicon and carbon (silicon carbide SiC), etc.

Role of Ceramics in Modern World

Since ancient times, the technology and applications of ceramics (including glass) have steadily
increased. We often take for granted the major role that ceramics have played in the progress of
humankind. Lets look at a few examples of the importance of ceramics in our lives.
Just a few questions one may ask oneself, before we uncover the role of Ceramics in modern world.

Can we imagine a world without Steel?

Can we imagine a world without Buildings?
Can we imagine a world without Electricity?
Can we imagine our body without Bones?

As our body cant stand without bones, no modern world nation can stand without Ceramics.

Let us review the major role of Modern Ceramics to various industries to understand its importance to a
modern world nation.

We do not have to imagine a world without Steel, thanks to (Ceramic) Refractories: modern iron, steel
and non-ferrous metal production would not be possible without the use of sophisticated refractory
materials that are used to line high temperature furnaces, channels and ladles.

We do not have to imagine a world without Buildings, thanks to (Ceramic) brick, cement, tile and glass:
much of the construction industry depends on the use of ceramic materials. This includes brick, cement,
tile and glass.
We do not have to imagine a world without Electricity, thanks to (Ceramic) high tension insulators:
ceramics are excellent insulators. High voltage insulators make it possible to safely carry electricity to
houses and businesses.

We do not have to imagine our body without Bones, thanks to (Ceramic) artificial bones: Orthopaedics
has advanced greatly with the aid of Ceramic artificial bones. Surgeons are already using bioceramic
materials for repair and replacement of human hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, fingers, eyes and wrists.

Role of Ceramics in Pollution Control

After all these human gestures of innovations, when the nature gets polluted again ceramics comes in
role in controlling the pollution.

Ceramics play an important role in addressing various environmental needs. Ceramics help decrease
pollution, capture toxic materials and encapsulate nuclear waste. Today's catalytic converters in vehicles
are made of cellular ceramics and help convert noxious hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide gases into
non-toxic carbon dioxide and water. Advanced ceramic components are starting to be used in diesel and
automotive engines. Ceramics properties like light weight, high-temperature resistance and wear
resistance result in more efficient combustion and significant fuel savings.
Advantages Over Metals

Ceramics are usually lighter than metals, sometimes weighing only about 40 % as much. This is
important in aircraft, missile and spacecraft applications, where reduced weight conserves fuel. In
a gas turbine engine, a lightweight ceramic rotor accelerates more rapidly than a heavier metallic
rotor because it has less inertia.

They are highly resistant to oxidation and other chemical glue, as well as to corrosion.

Because of their high temperature resistance, ceramics may obviate the need for cooling equipment,
especially in diesel engines.

Some ceramics are exceptionally hard. The hardest substances known, such as diamond, boron
carbide, cubic boron nitride and silicon carbide are ceramics. They can be excellent cutting agents.

Because of their low coefficient of friction, high compressive strength and wear resistance, some
ceramics can be used in bearings and other mechanical parts without requiring lubrication.

Some modern ceramics can withstand temperatures as high as 1600C, whereas even the best
super-alloys can seldom be used above about 1100 C.

Modern ceramics are potentially less expensive than super-alloys. In the years ahead, these
ceramics are expected to be much cheaper than super-alloys.

Unlike super-alloys ceramics do not require the increasingly expensive strategic metals (viz, cobalt,
chromium, nickel and tungsten) for high temperature use.