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Ceramic engineering

Ceramic engineering is the technology of manufacturing and usage of ceramic materials. Many engineering applications benefit from ceramics characteristics as a material. The characteristics of ceramics have garnered attention from engineers across the world, including those in the fields: Electrical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and many others. Highly regarded for being resistant to heat, ceramics can be used for many demanding tasks that other materials like Metal and Polymers can't.


Ceramics Applications in Engineering

Ceramics can be used in many technological industries. One application are the ceramic tiles on NASA's Space Shuttle, used to protect it and the future supersonic space planes from the searing heat of reentry into the earth's atmosphere. They are also used widely in electronics and optics. In addition to the applications listed here, ceramics are also used as a coating in various engineering cases. An example would be a ceramic bearing coating over a titanium frame used for an airplane. Recently the field has come to include the studies of single crystals or glass fibers, in addition to traditional Polycrystalline materials, and the applications of these have been overlapping and changing rapidly.


  • Engines; Shielding a hot running airplane engine from damaging other components.
  • Airframes; Used as a high-stress, high-temp and lightweight bearing and structural component.
  • Missile nose-cones; Shielding the missile internals from heat.
  • Space Shuttle tiles
  • Rocket Nozzles; Withstands and focuses the exhaust of the rocket booster.


  • Sensors; Insulator for internal sensors.
  • High-temperature components
  • Clutches where a high friction coefficent is preferable


  • Artificial bone; Dentistry applications, teeth.
  • Biodegradable splints; Reinforcing bones recovering from osteoperosis
  • Implant material

Electronics and Electrical Industry:

  • Capacitors
  • Integrated Circuit packages
  • Transducers
  • Insulators


  • Optical fibers; Glass fibers for super fast data transmission.
  • Switches
  • Laser amplifiers
  • Lenses

History of Ceramics in Engineering

Ceramics Engineering, like many sciences, evolved from a different discipline by today's standards. Materials Engineering is grouped with Ceramics Engineering to this day. Universities with ceramics programs include a curriculum saturated with materials engineering classes.

Abraham Darby first used coke in 1709 in Shropshire, England, to improve the yield of a smelting process. Coke is now widely used to produce carbide ceramics. Austrian chemist Karl Bayer, working for the textile industry in Russia, developed a process to separate alumina from bauxite ore in 1888. The Bayer process is still used to purify alumina for the ceramic and aluminum industries. Brothers Pierre and Jacques Curie discovered piezoelectricity in Rochelle salt circa 1880 in Paris. Piezoelectricity is one of the key properties of electroceramics. E.G. Acheson heated a mixture of coke and clay in 1893, and invented carborundum, or synthetic silicon carbide. Henri Moisson also synthesized SiC and tungsten carbide in his electric arc furnace in Paris about the same time as Acheson. Karl Schröter used liquid-phase sintering to bond Moissan’s tungsten carbide particles with cobalt in 1923 in Germany. Cemented carbide edges greatly increase the durability of hardened steel cutting tools. W.H. Nernst developed cubic-stabilized zirconia (CSZ) in the 1920s in Berlin. CSZ is used as an oxygen sensor in exhaust systems. W.D. Kingery and others in the 1950s developed partially-stabilized zirconia (PSZ), greatly increasing its toughness. PSZ is used to make cutlery and other tools. Lead zirconate titanate (PZT) was developed at the United States National Bureau of Standards in 1954. PZT is used as an ultrasonic transducer, as its piezoelectric properties greatly exceed those of Rochelle salt.[1]

The first ceramic engineering course and department in the United States were established by Edward Orton, Jr., a professor of geology and mining engineering, at the Ohio State University in 1894. Orton and eight other refractory professionals founded the American Ceramic Society (ACerS) at the 1898 National Brick Manufacturers' Association convention in Pittsburgh. Orton was the first ACerS General Secretary, and his office at OSU served as the society headquarters in the beginning. Charles F. Binns established the New York State School of Clay-Working and Ceramics, now Alfred University, in 1900. Binns was the third ACerS president, and Orton the 32nd.[2] The Ceramic Society of Japan was founded in 1891 in Tokyo. Deutschen Keramischen Gesellschaft, the ceramic society of Germany, was founded in Berlin in 1919.

The military requirements of World War II (1939-1945) encouraged developments, which created a need for high-performance materials and helped speed the development of ceramic science and engineering. Throughout the 1960's and 1970's, new types of ceramics were developed in response to advances in atomic energy, electronics, communications, and space travel. The discovery of ceramic superconductors in 1986 has spurred intense worldwide research to develop superconducting ceramic parts for electronic devices, electric motors, and transportation equipment.

Preceding the spark of the ceramic industry in the late 19th century, there was the study of materials closely associated with chemistry. Since Ceramics are comprised of a crystalline structure, the knowledge of how crystals are formed and the strengths involved was important in the development of ceramics as a standalone scientific field.

Present Day Ceramics Engineering

Now a multi-billion dollar a year industry, ceramics engineering and research has established itself as an important field of science. Applications continue to expand as researchers develop new kinds of ceramics to serve different purposes. An incredible number of ceramics engineering products have made their way into modern life. The largest producers of engineered ceramics--and largest employers of ceramic engineers--include Kyocera, Corning, Saint-Gobain, Morgan Crucible, Murata, AVX, CeramTec, Kohler, CoorsTek and EDO.


Many educational institutions in the United States offer degrees in this field, examples being the New York State College of Ceramics located at Alfred University, and Rutgers University, and there are several in other countries. Some of these institutions are planning to change the names of their disciplines to Materials science, "Materials engineering" or Materials Science and Engineering (MS&E). Clemson University and the University of Missouri–Rolla[3] offer Ceramic Engineering Major & Materials Minor.

See also

Further Reading

  • Engineered Materials Handbook, Volume 4: Ceramics and Glasses, ASM International, 1991, ISBN 0-87170-282-7.
  • M.W. Barsoum, Fundamentals of Ceramics, McGraw-Hill Co., Inc., 1997.
  • W.D. Callister, Jr., Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction, 5th Ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000.
  • W.D. Kingery, H.K. Bowen and D.R. Uhlmann, Introduction to Ceramics, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1976, ISBN 0-471-47860-1.
  • J.S. Reed, Introduction to the Principles of Ceramic Processsing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1988.
  • D.W. Richerson, Modern Ceramic Engineering, 2nd Ed., Marcel Dekker Inc., 1992, ISBN 0-8247-8634-3.
  • W.F. Smith, Principles of Materials Science and Engineering, 3rd Ed., McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1996.
  • L.H. VanVlack, Physical Ceramics for Engineers, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Inc., 1964.


  1. ^ John B. Wachtman, Jr., ed., Ceramic Innovations in the 20th Century, The American Ceramic Society, 1999.
  2. ^ The American Ceramic Society: 100 Years, American Ceramic Society, 1998, p 169-173, ISBN 1-888903-04-X.
  3. ^ *Brow, Richard K.. Ceramic Engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla (PDF). Archived from the original on 2003-06-25. Retrieved on 2007-10-07.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ceramic_engineering". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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