Can you believe that Ceramics Can be Harder than Diamonds?

- Jan 01, 2020 -

What is the hardest substance worldwide? Every person thinks typically about rubies. But you never believe that porcelains might likewise be the hardest compound in the world. Here we present to you silicon nitride ceramics (Si3N4 ceramics), which have high toughness, specifically hot-pressed silicon nitride porcelains, which is among the hardest materials in the world. It has high strength, low thickness, and also high-temperature resistance.


Silicon nitride ceramics is an inorganic material that does not shrink during sintering. Silicon nitride has high strength, especially hot-pressed silicon nitride, which is one of the hardest substances in the world. It has high strength, low density, and high-temperature resistance.


Silicon nitride ceramic is a kind of covalent bond compound, the basic structural unit for [SiN4] tetrahedron, silicon atom is located in the center of the tetrahedron, there are four nitrogen atoms around it, which located in tetrahedral four vertices, then to every three tetrahedra Shared in the form of an atom, the three-dimensional space form a continuous and strong network structure.

Numerous residential or commercial properties of silicon nitride result from this structure. Pure Si3N4 is 3119 and also has two crystal structures, α, and β, both of which are hexagonal crystals. The decomposition temperature is 1800 ° C in air and 1850 ° C in 110MPa nitrogen. Si3N4 has a low thermal expansion coefficient and high thermal conductivity, so its thermal shock resistance is excellent. The hot-pressed sintered silicon nitride will not crack even after being heated to 1000 ° C. At a not too high temperature, Si3N4 has higher strength and impact resistance. Still, it will break with the increase of the service time above 1200 ℃, which will reduce its power. It will be more prone to fatigue damage above 1450 ℃, so Si3N4 The operating temperature generally does not exceed 1300 ° C. Because the theoretical density of Si3N4 ceramics is low, it is much lighter than steel and engineering super heat-resistant alloy steels. Therefore, it is appropriate to replace Si3N4 ceramics with alloy steels in those places that require materials with high strength, low density, and high-temperature resistance. But that's it.

As an excellent high-temperature engineering material, Si3N4 ceramic material has the most advantages in its application in high-temperature fields. It is incredibly resistant to high temperatures, and its strength can be maintained up to 1200 ° C without decreasing. It will not melt into melt after being heated. It will not decompose until 1900 ° C. It has extreme chemical resistance and can withstand almost all Inorganic acid and caustic soda solution below 30% can also resist the corrosion of many organic acids; it is also a high-performance electrical insulation material.

The future development direction of Si3N4 ceramics is:

1. Make full use of the excellent characteristics of Si3N4 itself;

2. Research and control the best composition of existing flux when Si3N4 powder is sintered;

3. Improve the milling, forming and sintering processes;

4. Develop composites of materials such as Si3N4 and SiC to make more high-performance composite materials.

Silicon nitride ceramics uses silicon powder as a raw material. It is first formed into the desired shape by ordinary molding methods. Initial nitriding is performed in nitrogen at a high temperature of 1200 ° C, and a part of the silicon powder reacts with nitrogen to form silicon nitride. At this time, the entire body has a particular strength. Then a second nitriding is performed in a high-temperature furnace at 1350 ° C to 1450 ° C to react to form silicon nitride. Hot-pressing sintering can be used to produce silicon nitride with a theoretical density of 99%.

Si3N4 ceramic has the characteristics of lightweight and robust hardness, which can be used to make ball bearings. It has higher accuracy than metal bearings, generates less heat, and can operate in higher temperatures and corrosive media. It has higher efficiency than metal bearings, generates less heat, and can work in higher temperatures and corrosive media. The steam nozzle made of Si3N4 ceramic has the characteristics of wear resistance and heat resistance, and it has no visible damage after being used in a 650 ℃ boiler for several months, while other heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant alloy steel nozzles can only be used for 1-2 months under the same conditions. The Si3N4 ceramic glow plug developed by Chinese scientists solves the problem of cold starting of diesel engines and is suitable for direct injection or non-direct injection diesel engines. This glow plug is the most advanced and ideal ignition device for diesel engines today. Japanese researchers have successfully developed a new rough pump with a rotor in the pump casing consisting of 11 Si3N4 ceramic rotors. Because the shoe uses a Si3N4 ceramic rotor with a small thermal expansion coefficient and precision air bearings, it can operate normally without lubrication and cooling media. If this pump is combined with an ultra-vacuum pump such as a turbo molecular pump, a vacuum system suitable for use in a nuclear fusion reactor or semiconductor processing equipment can be formed.


The above are just a few application examples of Si3N4 ceramics as structural materials. It is believed that with the improvement of Si3N4 powder production, molding, sintering, and processing technology, its performance and reliability will continue to improve, and silicon nitride ceramics will be more widely used. Due to the improvement of the purity of Si3N4 ceramic raw materials, the rapid development of molding technology and the sintering technology of Si3N4 ceramic powder, and the continuous expansion of the application field, Si3N4 is taking an increasingly important position in the industry as a structural engineering ceramic. Si3N4 ceramic has excellent comprehensive properties and abundant resources, is an ideal high-temperature structural material, has a wide application field and market, and countries around the world are racing to research and development. Ceramic materials have the characteristics of wear resistance, corrosion resistance, high-temperature resistance, oxidation resistance, thermal shock resistance, and low specific gravity, which are incomparable for general metal materials. It can withstand the harsh working environment where metal or polymer materials are incapable and have a wide range of application prospects. It has become the critical primary material to support the pillar industry of the 21st century after metal materials and polymer materials. It has become one of the most active research fields. Today, countries around the world attach great importance to their research and development. As an essential member of the high-temperature structural ceramic family, Si3N4 ceramics have better mechanical properties, thermal properties, and chemical stability than other high-temperature structural ceramics such as oxide ceramics and carbide ceramics. Therefore, it is considered to be the most promising material in high-temperature structural ceramics.

It can be predicted that with the continuous progress of basic research and new technology development of ceramics, especially the increasingly sophisticated technology for the preparation of complicated and broad parts, Si3N4 ceramic materials will be more widely used as engineering materials with excellent performance.