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Mechanical properties

Structural ceramics I

Structural ceramics encompass all ceramic materials that fulfil mechanical functions.

Advantages of ceramic materials over metals and polymers:

- excellent temperature resistance

- high hardness
- high corrosion resistance
- low density


- lower fracture toughness

- higher price
- mechanical properties can only be indicated statistically
Mechanical properties

Structural oxide ceramics

Aluminum oxide, alumina Al2O3

Zircon oxide, zirconia ZrO2

Partially stabilized zirconia (with CeO, CaO, Zr0.9Mg0.1O1.9

MgO or Y2O3)
Aluminum titanate Al2TiO5 (ATi, AlTi)

Cordierite Mg2Al4Si5O18

Mullite Al6Si2O11

Spinel MgAl2O4

Lithium-aluminum-silicate Li2O-Al2O3-SiO2 - Basis (LAS)

SIALON Si3N4-Al2O3-Al-SiO2 - Basis

Mechanical properties

Hardness II

Mohs Material Vickers

Hardness Hardness
1 Talc 1
2 Gypsum 3
3 Calcite 9
finger nail (2.5)
4 Fluorite 21
coin (3.5)
5 Apatite 48
6 Orthoclase 72
steel (5.5)
7 Quartz glass (6) 100
8 Topaze 200
9 Corundum 400
SiC 600
TiC 600
10 Diamond 1500
Mechanical properties

Hardness III
Mechanical properties

Structure of alpha-Al2O3




Al site
empty site

a1 a2

Corundum structure, hexagonal unit (210) projection of the corundum structure.

cell setting, only the cation sublattice Aluminum ions in adjacent face-sharing octahedra
is shown. The oxygen form an mutually repell each other.
hexagonal dense packed array.
Mechanical properties

Alumina as structural ceramic

Properties of reactive grade alumina:
impurities Na2O 0.08wt% melting temperature 2050°C
surface area 6.8m g
2 -1 sintering temperature 1550 - 1600°C
sintered density 3.92 (2h 1650°C) fracture toughness 4 -4.5MPam1/2
bend strength 500 - 600 MPa
Applications: hip protheses, cutting tools (zirconia-toughened)

Triangular alumina-based cutting

element used to machine metallic parts

Cutting elements made of alumina
Mechanical properties

Alumina: microstructure and strength I

Controlling the microstructure of alumina ceramics to enhance mechanical properties

Dense hot pressed alumina

without (top) and with addition
of MgO (bottom) Grain growth
is detrimental to the fracture
strength of ceramics:

 f  d1/ 2 d: grain diam.


 Doping alumina with MgO leads

to the formation of precipitates
of spinell along the grain
boundaries, which lowers the
grain boundary
mobility. (Bennison et al.,

Mechanical properties

Alumina: microstructure and strength II

Porosity is detrimental to the mechanical strength:

(bp) 0: strength at zero porosity

 f   0 exp b: constant.

Doping alumina with periclase reduces also the

internal residual porosity. The picture (Geskovich et
al.500x) shows an alumina body sintered without
dopant. There is a large number of entrapped
pores.When sintered with a dopant, the reduced
grain boundary mobility allows the filling of the pores
when they are at the grain boundaries, whereas fast
grain growth encloses the pores quickly into the
interior of the grain, where it is difficult to
eliminate them.

Pure alumina has a low fracture toughness. Mixing

ca. 10% of zirconia (BSE image, zirconia: white)
into the alumina doubles the fracture toughness.
Mechanical properties

Example: Hip implants

The articulation of hip implants require:

-Mechanical strength. Typical maximal

loads within the human body are 10 to
15 kN.
-Wear resistance e.g. high hardness

Alumina is the material of choice. It is

biocompatible e.g. no rejection reaction
nor degradation in physiological liquids.
The mechanical strength, though not
very high, is 10 to 20 times higher than
required for the maximum loads
expected. The high hardness of alumina
results in average wear rates for
alumina-alumina coupling that are up to
50 times lower than for alumina -
polyethylene or alumina - chrome cobalt
Properties of Alumina/Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3)

• Very good electrical insulation (1x1014 to 1x1015 Ωcm)

• Moderate to extremely high mechanical strength (300 to
630 MPa)
• Very high compressive strength (2,000 to 4,000 MPa)
• High hardness (15 to 19 GPa)
• Moderate thermal conductivity (20 to 30 W/mK)
• High corrosion and wear resistance
• Good gliding properties
• Low density (3.75 to 3.95 g/cm3)
• Operating temperature without mechanical load 1,000 to
• Bioinert and food compatible
Mechanical properties

Pepper / Salt Grinder

Injection Molding

•High Hardness
•Resistance against NaCl

•No Corrosion
•Long lifetime
Mechanical properties

Zirconia as structural ceramic

Properties of partially stabilized zirconia:
dopant Y2O3, CaO 3 - 10wt% melting temperature 2500°C
sintered density 6.05 gcm -3 sintering temperature 1800°C
Young‘s modulus 170 -210 GPa fracture toughness 6 - 20 MPam1/2
Bend strength 400 - 700 MPa

Applications: die material in the metall industry, thermal barrier coatings, piston caps,
cutting tools valve


Piston parts (valves, sealings etc. made of Schematic drawing

stabilized zirconia. of a piston.
Mechanical properties

Polymorphs of ZrO2

Schematic structures of the three zirconia polymorphs

c c

a a
cubic c-phase tetragonal t-phase monoclinic c-phase
2370°C - 2680°C c/a = 1.02! < 1240°C
1240°C - 2370°C

- The cubic phase can be stabilized by doping with MgO, CaO or Y2O3
- The tetragonal - monoclinic phase transformation involves a 4.7%
volume increase.
- This volume increase is the basis for transformation toughening.
Mechanical properties

Partially stabilized zirconia (PSZ)

Manufacturing of partially stabilized zirconia

• Add about 10% MgO

• Sinter in the cubic phase
• Lower temperature and heat treat (age) to
nucleate small precipitates of t-phase
• These are growing below the critical size
for t-m transformation
• Cool to room temperature
• Remaining c-phase has no time to

ZrO2-MgO phase diagram

Mechanical properties

Mg-PSZ Microstructures

After sintering at 1800°C an annealing

stage at 1400°C is introduced:

-After 4-5 hours tetragonal precipitates,

grow by conventional diffusion processes as
coherent spheroids along {001} cube planes

-Below a well defined critical size of about

200 nm the t-particles remain tetragonal
down to room temperature

- Optimum microstructures contains about

25% - 30% by volume of tetragonal phase
Mechanical properties

Transformation toughening I

1. The stresses concentrated at the

crack tip transform the surrounding
tetragonal ZrO2 inclusions to the
monoclinic polymorph. The
crack transformation absorbs fracture
energy and slows down crack

tetragonal ZrO2 inclusion

“ transformed to monoclinic

stress orientation around

the crack tip
transformation zone

Lense-shaped tetragonal inclusions in

a matrix (black) of cubic zirconia (A. 200 nm
Mechanical properties

Transformation toughening II

2. Microcracking around the

transformed inclusions: The volume
stresses resulting from the tetragona-
monoclinic transformation delocalize
also the stresses from the crack tip

volume of the tetragonal zirconia inclusion

volume after transformation to monoclinic

stresses due to the volume increase

microfracture due to the volume stresses

Penetration depth

3. Crack deflection due to volume

stresses: The deflection of cracks
increases the crack surface.The stress
releave per unit penetration is,
therefore, larger then for an inclusion
free zirconia.

Mechanical properties

Transformation toughening III


Initially tetragonal zirconia inclusion in a cubic zirconia matrix, which are

completely transformed to the monoclinic structure. The bands within the
inclusions are twin lamellae.