Syalons Chemical Processing

Technical Ceramic Sensors: Properties & Applications

Rightly so, technical ceramics are commonly associated with harsh chemical processing, extremely high-temperature environments, and heavy-duty industry, however, in recent years, they have been increasingly employed in precision sensor applications.

Since the birth of the semiconductor in the 1950s, and the subsequent rise of silicon (Si) as the eponymous material of the digital age, researchers have been exploring novel engineering materials for sensing and detection, both for improved sensitivity and to survive in the most demanding environments. The most commonly used ceramics for direct sensing are piezo-electric materials, which generate an electric charge when mechanical stress is applied.

Specialist electroceramics with tailored properties are used widely throughout the electronics and electrical transmission industries including within integrated circuits (ICs) and photovoltaics (PVs), as well as where high thermally conductive electronic substrates are required.

Limitations of Current Sensing Materials

We use sensors in virtually every aspect of modern-day life. However, the ever-growing technological prowess of mankind has a way of highlighting the limitations of materials and subsystems that have become essential to many operations. It is increasingly difficult to detect and monitor critical parameters in extremely demanding applications using novel electronic equipment, which is often incapable of surviving high temperatures, harsh corrosive environments, or even moderate wear and abrasion.

How Technical Ceramics Can Help

Technical ceramics like silicon nitride (Si3N4) and their advanced derivatives such as sialons are designed to withstand some of the toughest working environments known to man. Characterized by outstanding mechanical properties and exceptional wear- and corrosion-resistant properties at temperatures as high as 1450°C, these advanced nitride-based ceramics represent the ideal solution for detecting/monitoring extreme parameters or for routine operations in tough conditions. Moreover, through careful engineering design, ceramics can be integrated into existing systems without the need for significant adaptations.

Syalons Chemical Processing

Applications of Technical Ceramic Sensors

Often the high strength and wear resistance of sialon in comparison to metal or plastic makes it an attractive alternative when designing sensor systems for moisture detection in industries such as grain storage, animal feed handing, or clay and cement preparation due to its transparency to microwaves.

Thanks to its non-wetting properties, thermal shock stability, and corrosion resistance in contact with molten aluminum, Syalon 101 is often used to protect fragile thermocouples from the melt, while the electrically conductive Syalon 501 grade can be incorporated into furnace wall circuitry to create accurate level sensors which provide a real-time melt level within the furnace.

Silicon nitride’s high-temperature resistance and tailored electrical and dielectric properties make it an extremely versatile material that is now utilized in novel sensor applications for aerospace and defense applications such as tip clearance sensors and radomes as the demand for materials capable of surviving ever increasingly demanding environments continues.

International Syalons: Technical Ceramics Suppliers

In recent years International Syalons has seen a significant increase in requests for sialon for use directly or indirectly in sensor applications. With extremely stable thermal properties and tailored electrical resistivity, silicon nitride is increasingly used as an integral component within complex electrical systems associated across a range of electrical requirements at high and low temperatures in challenging sectors such as aerospace and aviation, for instance.

If you would like to learn more about using technical ceramics in different sensor markets, or simply want to discuss the specifications of our proprietary Syalons range, contact a member of the International Syalons team today.

Metal Forming with Technical Ceramics: Food & Beverage Cans

Metal forming, like most of the metalworking and manufacturing chain, can be an extremely intensive process. It exploits the inherent plasticity of sheet metal to form net and near-net shapes via applied mechanical loads rather than gradual subtraction (cutting, grinding, etc.).

Though there are countless forming methods available to manufacturers today, each one typically falls under one of the following overarching categories: bending; compression; tension; combined compression and tension; or shear forming. Hard-wearing technical ceramics are ubiquitous in virtually every type of metal forming technique.

Why Use Technical Ceramics in Metal Forming?

Consider the manufacturing process for aluminum cans in the food and beverage industry. Circular blanks are cut from thinly rolled sheets and are then drawn upwards to form a hollow cylinder comprising the bottom and sides of the can. This is known as the initial draw.

A re-drawing process occurs next, where the partially formed blank is held in place by a sleeve as a pneumatic punch and a series of ironing rings apply pressure to increase the diameter and height of the cup by stretching the walls. This is done in a single motion that takes a fraction of a second.

All the forming tools used throughout this multi-step process are subjected to repeated high compressive stress and severe wearing forces during every single production cycle. This is compounded by the fact that metalworking processes are often continuous and high-throughput.

Wear-resistant technical ceramics are subsequently ideal for metal forming tools in the canning process. Two of the most common precision ceramics used in two-piece drawing and wall ironing are silicon nitride (Si3N4) and zirconia (ZrO2). These two technical ceramics are renowned for their impact-resistant properties, high strength, and toughness. They can be formatted in a range of configurations with extremely hard, smooth surfaces that mitigate friction between the tool and the workpiece throughout high-pressure forming. This translates to a higher quality finished part and longer tool integrity throughout intensive, continuous metal forming processes.

International Syalons: Technical Ceramics Suppliers

At International Syalons, we champion materials expertise and superior performance with a range of high-quality technical ceramics and precision parts. If you would like to speak with a member of the team about engineering unique canning tool parts using our Syalon range of silicon nitrides or Zircalon zirconia products, simply contact a member of the team today.

Milling Media

Selecting the Right Milling Media: Technical Ceramics or Steel?

Grinding samples down to finer consistencies is an age-old process that has not changed much with time. Whether you are looking to achieve the ideal particle size for specific analytical methods, or to prepare homogenous powders for further downstream processing, the general principles of milling remain the same. Materials are broken-up using abrasion, by placing samples in a chamber packed with hard-wearing milling media and applying force.Continue reading

Could 3D Printing Advanced Ceramic Materials Assist Vaccine Development?

Various agencies around the world have long highlighted a potential pandemic as one of the greatest threats to humankind. Since before the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-COV) in 2002, institutions like the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) have developed various models for influenza pandemic planning. These models extol the importance of social distancing in buying time for immunologists to develop an effective vaccine. However, the conventional vaccine development timeline can be torturously slow.Continue reading

Oxide Technical Ceramics: Alumina & Zirconia

Technical ceramics are an advanced class of materials primarily used in tough mechanical engineering applications and environments associated with refractory temperatures or harsh corrosive conditions. Characterised by remarkable thermomechanical properties and wide-ranging resistance to common alkalis, acids, and harsher corrosive agents, fine ceramic materials are used to satisfy some of the most stringent operating objectives in modern industry.Continue reading

Molten Metal Forming

Using Sialons in Aluminium Handling and Smelting

Updated: Originally published on 31/05/2018

Aluminium is one of the most readily-consumed metals on the planet, with production of alloys based predominantly on aluminium topping an average 64 million tonnes per annum. This excludes the growing volume of secondary, or recycled, aluminium which is estimated at a yearly 12 million tonnes. Despite the metal’s ubiquity, there are difficulties associated with aluminium handling and processing, which necessitate advanced material solutions.

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SiC Seals

Non-Oxide Technical Ceramics: Sialons & SiC

Technical ceramics are among the most advantageous engineering materials ever developed, characterized by a diverse range of chemical, electrical, and thermomechanical properties. From hard-wearing silicon carbide (SiC) armour plates to piezoelectric zinc oxide (ZnO), components based on fine ceramic materials have permeated a broad range of market sectors. This far-reaching applicability stems from the compositional variety of ceramic compositions.

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What is Alumina?

Alumina (Al2O3), otherwise known as aluminum oxide, is an advanced refractory belonging to the oxide group of technical ceramics. It is an extremely versatile material that can be bonded and formed using a broad range of consolidation and sintering techniques, yielding precise near-net shapes in a range of purities.Continue reading