Ceramics cover a wide range of, typically, nonmetallic, inorganic materials, including clay, cement, silicate glass, and more advanced materials, such as oxides, nitrides, and carbides. Metal-organic polymeric compounds are also used to produce a host of polymer derived ceramics, particularly SiC and Si3N4. The processing of very fine powders in the 50 nm to 100 nm scale or smaller has been the subject of much recent research, primarily because it enhances mechanical reliability and can provide transparency. Traditional forms of ceramic processing include pressing, plastic forming, slip and tape casting, followed by sintering or firing.
New methods of processing advanced ceramic materials are being discovered by Penn State scientists for use in lasers, optical communications, implants, spark plugs, and microelectronics. These methods include templated grain growth, microwave sintering, nanometer to micrometer synthesis and processing in water, and micro and nanoscale high pressure techniques.
Gary Messing: Substituting Ceramics for Single Crystals
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