Ceramics industry is one of the most ancient industries that are in use even today. Once it was discovered by humans that clay could be dug and shaped into objects by mixing with water followed by firing, a new industry was born. Human and animal figurines were made as early as 24,000BC from clay and other materials. These were then fired in kilns which were partially dug into the ground. Tiles were manufactured in India and Mesopotamia almost 10,000 years later when settled communities were established.
The continuing evolution in the field of ceramics and the technologies associated is accelerating at a rapid pace. Each new technological development adds more to the knowledge bank that is available today in this segment. With the development of new materials and technologies, the pace of applications of ceramics has been quite astounding. Greatest achievements have been made in the field of ceramics and materials technology since the 1900s. The extensive developments in the field of metallurgy have produced a feasible combination of materials. There is a push in the segment for less costly and more efficient production of these materials which have a wide range of applications in numerous segment.
With the advances and understanding of ceramic chemistry since the 1900s, extensive knowledge has been gained for the production of engineered ceramics. The techniques that were earlier applicable to metals can now be applied to ceramic systems. Alloying, tempering, phase transformations, tempering techniques and quenching can now be applied to a range of ceramic systems. The gap between metals and ceramics has been bridged owing to the significant improvements in impact resistance, ductility, and toughness since the 1900s.
The emerging and new family of ceramics is referred to as advanced ceramics. These possess several properties which can be considered to be superior to metal-based systems. These properties making ceramics quite attractive not just in terms of performance but as well as in cost-effectiveness. Since the 1900s, the field of ceramics has experienced massive growth and has been categorized as oxides, non-oxides, and composites. Each of these classes possesses unique properties.
Oxide Ceramics, non-oxide ceramics, and ceramic composites are the three main streams that have gained immense popularity owing to developments in the field since the 1900s. The rapid use and development of composite materials during the 1940s resulted in three key driving forces in this segment.
- Military vehicles such as helicopters, rockets, and airplanes placed a premium on lightweight and high strength materials. While metallic components employed certainly accomplished their tasks in terms of mechanical properties, their heavy weight resulted in the prohibition. The higher the weight of the helicopter or the plane, the lesser the cargo it could carry.
- Polymer industries developed quickly and tried to expand the reach by offering a variety of applications. The emergence of light-weight and new polymers from laboratories offered a solution to various problems that persisted during the period.
- The extremely high theoretical strength of glass fibers and other materials were discovered during the period. The question was how to utilize the potentially high strength materials for solving the problems faced by the military.
These three factors led to the development of composites which have revolutionized the ceramic industry.
1940s: Glass fiber reinforced composites
1960s: High performance composites
1990s: Nanocomposites and biomimetic strategies
Both industrial and academic researchers started working on Nano composites during 1900s. Since then micro synthesis has propelled developments in making computer components. Material components are being worked on extensively for deriving complex materials that can be used to function as micro machines. The number of commercial applications of nanocomposites has progressed at a rapid pace. The worldwide production of these materials exceeded 600,000 tons during 2010.
Nanocomposites are employed in drug delivery systems, UV protection gels, fire retardant materials, anti-corrosion barrier coatings, scratch free paints, abrasion resistant materials and superior strength fibers. Enhancements in the mechanical property have propelled major interest in the field of nanocomposites. These materials find industrial as well as automotive applications. The applications can as well be extended for making flexible batteries. Nanocomposites of nanotubes and cellulose materials can be used to make conductive paper. A flexible battery is formed upon soaking this conductive paper in an electrolyte.
Researchers are attempting to combine fluorescent and magnetic nanoparticles within a nanocomposites particle. The magnetic property of this particle will make a tumor visible during an MRI procedure done prior to surgery. The fluorescent property will help the surgeons to see the tumor better while operating. A lot of other developments have been noted in the field of ceramics since 1900s in the field of research.