Just as in the field of plastics, scientists are coming up with new ways to use ceramic materials. They have already proven to be stronger than steel in many applications, and they have properties that make them the ideal choice in the automotive industry, aerospace technology, dentistry, and prosthetics. Long considered to be a material more suited for decorative pieces, it is now being found that ceramics can be used in many more ways than originally imagined. Since it’s introduction in primitive forms in ancient civilizations, ceramics has just started its journey to the edge of modern technology.
Some of the types of advanced ceramics critical industries in our society are employing are Alumina, Aluminum Nitride, and Silicon Nitride. These are being used, because they will remain their dimensional stability through a range of high temperatures, exhibit high mechanical strength, have superior chemical resistance, and give manufacturers the opportunities to design components that will offer the best performance possible.
As in the rest of the world these days, the aerospace industry is under pressure to produce higher performance and increased safety while faced with dwindling financial resources. This means that manufacturers of commercial and defense airplane materials as well as the space exploration sector are being forced to find new, reliable materials to meet the needs of their highly specialized applications. Ceramics are moving up to fill this void.
Architects are finding that ceramic materials have the ability to keep up with the developmental pace of human society and the needs of the people. Prior to the 1920s, architecture employed a lot of ceramic decoration; however, the Modernist era put an end to that practice. Now in the 21st century, however, more architects are incorporating ceramic artwork into their building designs. New products, such as Superadobe, are being developed to provide a more earth-friendly method of building.
Medicine is an area where the use of ceramics is making a huge difference in a great many lives. The use of ceramics in constructing artificial joints has been under development since the 1970s. The procedure experienced a great deal of publicity in 1999 when golfer Jack Nicklaus received a ceramic-on-ceramic hip replacement, and these hip joints finally were approved by the FDA in 2003. The chief advantage of using a ceramic hip joint instead of a more traditional metal one is because of the increased life expectancy of the joint. Hip recipients can expect to get as much as 20 years of use from their ceramic joints.
The automotive industry has always been a venue for the use of ceramics. Even the earliest models used ceramic spark plugs as well as glass windows. More recently, cars are being made with ceramic honeycomb supports for the catalyst of catalytic converters, ceramic oxygen sensors to help optimize combustion and reduce exhaust, and ceramic brake shoes and rotors, all of which reduce the weight of the vehicle while providing high performance. It is very likely that ceramics will soon be used in internal engine structural parts as well as for valves and valve seats and ceramic fuel cells.
Ceramics are on their way to becoming the super material of the future as scientists discover different properties and uses for it.