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Ceramic comes from the Greek word keramikos which means “burnt stuff”. Ceramics are
nonmetallic and inorganic solids. This is typically hard and chemically non-reactive and can be
formed or densified with heat. Ceramics are generally made by taking mixtures of clay, earthen
elements, powders, and water and shaping them into desired forms. Once the ceramic has been
shaped, it is fired in a high temperature oven known as a kiln. Often, ceramics are covered in
decorative, waterproof, paint-like substances known as glazes.

Ceramics are all around us. This category of materials includes things like tile, bricks,
plates, glass, and toilets. Ceramics can be found in products like watches (quartz tuning forks-the
time keeping devices in watches), snow skies (piezoelectric-ceramics that stress when a voltage is
applied to them), automobiles (sparkplugs and ceramic engine parts found in race cars), and
phone lines. They can also be found on space shuttles, appliances (enamel coatings), and
airplanes (nose cones). Depending on their method of formation, ceramics can be dense or
lightweight. Typically, they will demonstrate excellent strength and hardness properties;
however, they are often brittle in nature. Ceramics can also be formed to serve as electrically
conductive materials, objects allowing electricity to pass through their mass, or insulators,
materials preventing the flow of electricity. Some ceramics, like superconductors, also display
magnetic properties.

Two Categories of Ceramic

Traditional applications include consumer products like dinnerware or ovenware and

construction products like tile or windows. Most of these applications have been in use for many
years and therefore markets are mature with single digit growth.

Advanced applications take advantage of specific mechanical/electrical/

optical/biomedical/chemical properties of glass or ceramic materials and have entered the scene
over the last several decades or so. The markets for some of these applications can have double
digit growth.


Ceramics and related materials cover a wide range of objects. Ceramics are a little more
complex than metallic structures, which is why metals were covered first. A ceramic has traditionally
been defined as “an inorganic, non-metallic solid that is prepared from powdered materials and is
fabricated into products through the application of heat. Most ceramics are made up of two or more
elements. This is called a compound. For example, alumina (Al2O3) is a compound made up of
aluminum atoms and oxygen atoms.

The two most common chemical bonds for ceramic materials are covalent and ionic. The bonding of
atoms together is much stronger in covalent and ionic bonding than in metallic. This is why ceramics
generally have the following properties: high hardness, high compressive strength, and chemical
inertness. This strong bonding also accounts for the less attractive properties of ceramics, such as low
ductility and low tensile strength. The absence of free electrons is responsible for making most
ceramics poor conductors of electricity and heat.

However, it should be noted that the crystal structures of ceramics are many and varied and this
results in a very wide range of properties. For example, while ceramics are perceived as electrical and
thermal insulators, ceramic oxide (initially based on Y-Ba-Cu-O) is the basis for high temperature
superconductivity. Diamond and silicon carbide have a higher thermal conductivity than aluminum or
copper. Control of the microstructure can overcome inherent stiffness to allow the production of
ceramic springs, and ceramic composites which have been produced with a fracture toughness about
half that of steel. Also, the atomic structures are often of low symmetry that gives some ceramics
interesting electromechanical properties like piezoelectricity, which is used in sensors and

The structure of most ceramics varies from relatively simple to very complex. The microstructure can
be entirely glassy (glasses only); entirely crystalline; or a combination of crystalline and glassy. In the
latter case, the glassy phase usually surrounds small crystals, bonding them together. The main
compositional classes of engineering ceramics are the oxides, nitrides and carbides.

The two major categories can be further broken down into more specific product classifications or
market segments as seen for the next pages. One category that is sometimes hard to define is
refractories. The production of most ceramics and glasses, as well as other commodities like metals,
metal alloys, and cement, would not be possible without these materials. Refractories are critical
materials that resist aggressive conditions, including high temperature (up to 3200°F), chemical and
acid attack, abrasion, mechanical impact, and more.
Traditional Segments

Segment Products

Structural clay Brick, sewer pipe, roofing tile, clay floor and wall tile (i.e., quarry
products tile), flue linings

White wares Dinnerware, floor and wall tile, sanitaryware (vitreous china
plumbing fixtures), electrical porcelain, decorative ceramics

Refractories Brick and monolithic products used in iron and steel, non-ferrous
metals, glass, cements, ceramics, energy conversion, petroleum, and
chemicals industries, kiln furniture used in various industries

Glasses Flat glass (windows), container glass (bottles), pressed and blown
glass (dinnerware), glass fibers (home insulation)
Abrasives Natural (garnet, diamond, etc.) and synthetic (silicon carbide,
diamond, fused alumina, etc.) abrasives are used for grinding
Cements Concrete roads, bridges, buildings, dams, residential sidewalks,

Advanced Segments

Segment Products

Automotive Diesel engine cam rollers, fuel pump rollers, brakes,

clutches, spark plugs, sensors, filters, windows, thermal
insulation, emissions control, heaters, igniters, glass fiber
composites for door chassis and other components

Aerospace Thermal insulation, space shuttle tiles, wear components,

combustor liners, turbine blades/rotors, fire detection
feedthrus, thermocouple housings, aircraft instrumentation
and control systems, satellite positioning equipment,
ignition systems, instrument displays and engine monitoring
equipment, nose caps, nozzle jet vanes, engine flaps

Chemical/petrochemical Thermocouple protection tubes, tube sheet boiler ferrules,

catalysts, catalyst supports, pumping components, rotary

Coatings Engine components, cutting tools, industrial wear parts,

biomedical implants, anti-reflection, optical, self-cleaning
coatings for building materials

Electrical/electronic Capacitors, insulators, substrates, integrated circuit

packages, piezoelectrics, transistor dielectrics, magnets,
cathodes, superconductors, high voltage bushings, antennas,
sensors, accelerator tubes for electronic microscopes,
substrates for hard disk drives

Environmental Solid oxide fuel cells, gas turbine components, measuring

wheels/balls for check valves (oilfields), nuclear fuel
storage, hot gas filters (coal plants), solar cells, heat
exchangers, isolator flanges for nuclear fusion energy
research, solar-hydrogen technology, glass fiber
reinforcements for wind turbine blades

Homeland Particulate/gas filters, water purification membranes,

security/military catalysts, catalyst supports, sulfur removal/recovery,
molecular sieves


Ceramics and Joining Technology

The production of products from consistently high-quality technical ceramics requires

process engineering to ensure quality requirements are met. In selected parts of the machinery and
equipment in such production lines, components made of technical ceramics are used, some of which
have proved effective for many decades.
In the case of products made from such materials, focus is on the following core properties:

 Purity of the materials and their chemical composition with regard to the materials used in the
ceramic production process.

 Geometric dimensional stability.

 Resistance to abrasion in mixing and grinding processes and in granulation.

 Thermal and thermomechanical resistance.

 Dimensional stability in high-temperature applications.

 Electrical insulation in measurement systems

The above-mentioned properties are not only important for the production of technical ceramics but
also for material-to-material joining technology in metallic brazing and / or glass soldering
technology, and they are sometimes crucial for the successful production of such products. Positioners
especially adapted to the mechanical and thermal properties of the metal and ceramic partners to be
joined often enable products with sufficiently narrow geometric dimensional tolerances. In such
cases, costly post-machining of the joined components is no longer necessary.

Ceramics and Medicine

A wide range of ceramic and glass materials are being used in biomedical applications;
ranging from bone implants to biomedical pumps. Dentistry has also advanced with ceramic teeth that
can be matched to a patient’s natural ones and other applications for improving a patient’s smile. In
the future, ceramics will find applications in gene therapy and tissue engineering.

 Glass beads offer hope for liver cancer patients

Currently used treatments for inoperable liver cancer can reduce symptoms of this disease but
require hospitalization and usually cause side effects that reduce the quality of life for

 Ceramic braces make Tom Cruise smile

Traditionally, braces have consisted of metal brackets and wires. However, some people have
feared the idea of a “metal mouth” so much that they refuse to wear braces altogether,
missing out on the possibility of a beautiful smile. For this reason, orthodontic research began
to focus on less visible options.

 Hip replacements become stronger

Over the last twenty years there has been a considerable increase in the use of ceramic
materials for implant devices. With an excellent combination of strength and toughness
together with bio-inert properties and low wear rates, a special type of oxide called zirconia is
now displacing alumina in applications such as femoral heads for total hip replacements.

The zirconia heads display double the strength of comparable alumina heads and
consequently the diameter of the femoral head can be reduced to < 26 mm, leading to a
reduction in patient trauma during the hip replacement operation. Other applications which
could benefit from a zirconia implant include knee joints, shoulders, phalangeal joints and
spinal implants. This material is also being used for endoscopic components and pace maker
Automotive Engineering

Motorized vehicles are manufactured in series production with a high degree of

automation. With the variety of technical equipment, the numerous design variants and the high
utility value for the customers, they are hardly surpassed by other technical products.
A large number of industries and technologies are involved in the manufacture of motorized
vehicles: machine tool manufacturing, glass industry, plastics industry, ceramic and chemical
industry, electrical engineering and electronics industries, textile industry, surface finishing and
environmental engineering, just to name a few examples.
In a motorized vehicle, the following main component assemblies can be defined:

 Engine

 Power transmission / drive train

 Chassis

 Car body

 Vehicle electrics / electronics

Every component assembly has specific technical requirements for the materials used. The
selection of certain materials is guided by the goal to maximize energy and cost efficiency
combined with acceptable reliability.
As in the majority of applications in engineering, in motorized vehicles too, components made of
high-quality technical ceramics are used to reliably meet requirements that materials on metal or
plastic basis are hardly able to fulfil.
Often, the mainly dense-sintered ceramic materials make economic realization of requirements
possible in first place. The spark plug with its electrical insulator made of Al 2O3 ceramic is a
historical example or the l-sensor with doped ZrO2 as an electric conductor provides an example
from more recent years.
Application in motorized vehicles demands from components made of technical ceramics high
reliability and cost efficiency in long-term operation. The application-specific requirements are
therefore focussed on the following properties:

 Mechanical strength

 Density

 Achievable geometric precision and edge stability

 Tribological properties, e.g. coefficient of friction and abrasive behaviour even in

emergency conditions

 Dimensional stability with changing thermal and mechanical loads

 Resistance to high temperatures and sudden temperature changes

 Insulating capacity and thermal conductivity

 Chemical corrosion resistance

 Electrical insulation and electrical conductivity

 Dielectric properties

 Magnetic properties

 Suitability for thin and thick film technologies

 Possibility to produce force-fit, form-fit and adhesively bonded ceramic-ceramic and

ceramic-metal joints

Today, the manufacturers of motor vehicles use monolithic ceramic materials,

composites, piezoceramics and magnetoceramics on oxide and non-oxide basis. The components
made of these materials are often optimized for the specific application. As a result, they achieve
high reliability and long-term durability in everyday operation.


Compared to other industries, the aerospace sector makes a rather small contribution to
Germany’s gross domestic product. However, precisely in this sector, economically and
strategically important technology and know-how are developed that are then utilized in
numerous industries and consequently play a key role in assuring industry’s competitiveness.
At the focus of aerospace technology with regards to scientific, technical and environmentally
relevant aspects are four system types:

 Aircraft

 Missiles

 Spacecraft

 Satellites

The technical requirements for such systems concentrate on:

 Low weight

 Good aerodynamics
 Efficient drives

 Power supply

 Control

 Data transfer and communications

 Safety

 Payload

 Thermal and dynamic resistance

From an ecological perspective, key factors are low noise generation and low fuel consumption.
In various positions in these complex structures, the use of components made of high-grade oxide
and non-oxide ceramic materials and composites is recommended when high resilience is
demanded in sometimes extreme operating conditions.
The use of high-purity, monolithic oxide and non-oxide ceramic materials and composites
presents a potential solution when the specific requirements profiles demand the following
properties from the components:

 Low density

 High mechanical strength

 High rigidity

 High toughness

 High wear resistance

 Resistance to high and low temperatures over a large range

 High thermal shock resistance

 Phase stability in the applicable pressure and temperature range

 Low thermal expansion

 High or low thermal conductivity, depending on the specific application

 Resistance to cosmic radiation

 High electrical insulating capacity

 Realizability of adhesively bonded, high-vacuum-tight ceramic-ceramic and ceramic-
metal composite components also for temperatures near 0 K, with high thermal shock
resistance and high mechanical strength

 No gas emission

Depending on the specific application, the requirement profiles are very different, and a
correspondingly wide range of suitable high-grade ceramic materials is available for selection:
Al2O3, ZrO2, AlN, SiC, Si3N4, ferrites, piezoceramics and fibre composites.

In some cases, the materials are optimized for a specific application and consequently guarantee
reliable function in long-term application.

One example is the high-vacuum-tight electric feedthrough fabricated by means of metal brazing
used as a component in the “Rosina” spectrometer in the “Rosetta” space probe.

Electrical Engineering, Electronics

Products made of technical ceramics are now proven components in the construction and
control of sophisticated plants, machinery and equipment with electrotechnical component
assemblies. Often, they make possible the function of such constructions in the first place. Typical
examples include λ sensors in automotive engineering or in kiln and furnace engineering, the
vacuum chambers of particle accelerators or actuators in motion detectors. The size of such
components is typically in the region of a few millimetres up to several metres.
A special feature of this class of materials is the wide range of electrical conductivity, which
spans more than 15 orders of magnitude and cannot be matched by any other class of materials. It
includes electrically insulating as well as semi-conducting, ionic-conducting and superconducting
materials. On top of this come the dielectric properties, which can be used, for instance, in sensor
technology and telecommunications.
Besides the electrical properties, magnetic properties are often required, The soft or hard
magnetic ferrites have proven effective materials for decades. Compared with metallic materials,
they often enable smaller product sizes and therefore more economically attractive products.
Typical for the applications of technical ceramic materials is a frequent requirement for other non-
electrical properties such as:

 Mechanical strength

 Thermal resistance

 Thermal shock resistance

 Thermal conductivity
 Corrosion resistance

 Production of ultrahigh-vacuum-capable joints with metals

A key strength of this class of materials is the demand-driven combinations of the above-
mentioned properties. In addition comes the possibility to optimize properties for a specific
application by means of appropriate doping and therefore to tailor materials to requirements.

Military Engineering

The primary objective of the application of ceramic materials for military engineering is
to guarantee precision in the reconnaissance and combatting of military targets as well as in
safety and personal protection to preserve resources on the highest possible technical level.
Against this background, machine, equipment and clothing components made of monolithic oxide
and non-oxide ceramics as well as ceramic-plastic, ceramic-ceramic, and ceramic-metal
composite systems are reliable and proven components in stationary and mobile marine and
airborne applications today. For specific applications, they are also used in civilian sectors.
The products made of oxide and non-oxide ceramic materials and composites have the following
properties that are essential for such purposes:

 Low weight

 High mechanical and thermomechanical strength

 High hardness

 High rigidity

 High wear resistance

 Low thermal expansion

 High electrical insulating capacity

 Non-magnetizability

 Ability to fabricate high-vacuum-tight ceramic-ceramic and ceramic-metal composites

 Resistance to sea water

 Suitability in compliance with MIL standards


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