What Are Ceramics?

Ceramics encompass such a vast array of materials that a concise definition is almost impossible. However, one workable definition of ceramics is a refractory, inorganic, and nonmetallic material. Ceramics can be divided into two classes: traditional and advanced. Traditional ceramics include clay products, silicate glass and cement; while advanced ceramics consist of carbides (SiC), pure oxides (Al2O3), nitrides (Si3N4), non-silicate glasses and many others. Ceramics offer many advantages compared to other materials. They are harder and stiffer than steel; more heat and corrosion resistant than metals or polymers; less dense than most metals and their alloys; and their raw materials are both plentiful and inexpensive. Ceramic materials display a wide range of properties which facilitate their use in many different product areas.

Product AreaProduct
Aerospacespace shuttle tiles, thermal barriers, high temperature glass windows, fuel cells
Consumer Uses glassware, windows, pottery, Corning¨ ware, magnets, dinnerware, ceramic tiles, lenses, home electronics, microwave transducers
Automotive catalytic converters, ceramic filters, airbag sensors, ceramic rotors, valves, spark plugs, pressure sensors, thermistors, vibration sensors, oxygen sensors, safety glass windshields, piston rings
Medical (Bioceramics)orthopedic joint replacement, prosthesis, dental restoration, bone implants
Military structural components for ground, air and naval vehicles, missiles, sensors
Computers insulators, resistors, superconductors, capacitors, ferroelectric components, microelectronic packaging
Other Industriesbricks, cement, membranes and filters, lab equipment
Communications fiber optic/laser communications, TV and radio components, microphones

Humans have found applications for ceramics for the past 30,000 years; every day new and different applications are being discovered. This truly makes ceramics a stone age material, with space age qualities.

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