Engineering ceramics possess superior mechanical and physical properties. The exceptional wear, corrosion and contact fatigue resistance of silicon nitride and SiAlON ceramics makes them attractive materials for high temperature metalforming tools and rolling elements for bearings. Despite the efforts devoted to study this class of materials, there still exists a gap between their microstructural properties and their potential application limits. Developing multiscale predictive models that deliver information on materials degradation mechanisms, based on realistic working conditions, will enable the systematic tailoring of ceramic materials for new applications, supported by validated evaluation techniques including tribology, damage analysis, and lifetime predictions.
The optimisation of the microstructure is clearly application-dependent and should rely on co-related material development efforts and multiscale simulations. The bridging between the microstructural properties and macroscale behaviour should merge the knowledge acquired from the atomistic, microscale, mesoscale and macroscale levels. Nonetheless, the chain of information would not be complete without including means of validation that rely on experimental techniques and functionality tests in real applications.
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