A group of scientists have come up with a way of making ceramics that bend and mush as opposed to shattering (though they may still crack when subjected to excess pressure). The new discovery can be termed lifesaving considering the fact that ceramics that are heat resistant are vital materials in machines that run hot and also important in coating the metal parts of the insides of airplane engines. Though Ceramics are vital materials, they are also dangerous because of their tendency to shatter without prior warning. Sudden shattering can be detrimental particularly if it’s the only thing preventing a jet engine from melting. Thus, the new way of making ceramic material guarantees that the material can show signs of possible shattering by bending and mushing when exposed to pressure.
In a bid to create a more flexible and durable ceramic, the researchers and scientists from Purdue University interfered with the sintering process. Sintering is a method that involves the firing of a ceramic with intense heat with the intention of giving it a chemical structure as well as proper shape and toughness. In an article published on May 25, 2018, in the Journal Nature, the scientists indicated that sintering takes a long time in ordinary circumstances. The process aims at making the ceramic extremely tough and resistant to wear and also ensure the creation of a brittle material.
Ceramics lack certain defects that exist in other flexible materials such as metals. Metals tend to bend before breaking because they feature “suitable defects.” That means that there are places in their chemical composition which feature misaligned molecules that can slide around one another effectively. However, it is possible to introduce the defects present in metals by flash-sintering a ceramic material that is heat resistant otherwise known as yttria-stabilized zirconia. Sintering also involves applying an electrical field to the ceramic during the sintering process. When the researchers tested small columns of the stuff under pressure, they realized that the flash-sintered ceramic was about three to four times slower in shattering when compared to the typical ceramic (yttria-stabilized zirconia).
The researchers further noted that if there wasexposureto a higher load at lower temperatures, a huge of ceramics would shatter without warning. Additionally, the Professor of Materials Engineering at Purdue University – Xinghang Zhang who is also a co-author of the study indicated that it is now possible to see the upcoming cracks even when the material remains intact. Even though it is a predictable failure, the discovery promises a much safer option in the usage of ceramics.