Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not Just a One Trick Pony

So I am gonna take a little detour and talk about some other uses of ceramics.  If you have been keeping up with this blog you might remember that ceramics are used in armor because they have high compressive strength, they are relatively light and hard.  You'd probably expect that many of these properties that make ceramics good in armor could be applied to other areas.

Well you're right.  In many crushing and grinding operation including mineral processing ceramics are used.  To break a material you have to hit it with something harder and stronger than it.  When material like alumina is pressed and fired at temperatures around 1400°C they are highly dense, super tough, very hard, and wear resistant.  What better material is there to crush ore?

Ball Mill:  the yellow represents the ore while the grey ball represent the ceramic
Ceramics can also be used for cutting blades.  Many of you have probably seen adds for ceramic knives and said "Why would I pay that much for a stupid knife?"  Well there are actually many advantages to owning a ceramic knife.  The first and probably most important feature is these knives never need to be sharpened.  Second while traditional knives may rust or tarnish ceramic knives won't.  This point may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on its uses but ceramic knives do not bend.  However, a major problem with these knives is they are still somewhat brittle like most other ceramics so if you drop it on the floor it may break.  Still I believe the benefits of ceramic knives outweigh the few disadvantages.

Nice set of ceramic knives good for any kitchen
I think I'll talk about one more use of ceramics outside of armor.  One very important application of ceramics is they are used as building material.  From bricks to concrete these ceramics are commonly used in the construction industry.  They are cheap, abundant and easy to produce.  Yet they still retain high compressive strength which makes them ideal for stacking tall structures.

I hope this post has shown that ceramics have many applications outside of armor and is very important to our lives.  In truth I did not even cover their application in fields like electronics or renewable energy.


  1. I remember one of my high school teachers telling our class that if we wanted to make great living we should get involved with ceramics in any way that we could. Sounds like he was right on the money. I have enjoyed your posts discussing how great ceramics are!

  2. What kind of ceramic knives are those?

  3. Most ceramic knives are made of material called zirconium oxide ZrO2 also called zirconia.