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Content archived on 2024-06-10

Nanocomposite alumina ceramics for advanced technical applications



Alumina ceramics have an excellent wear cost index and
are therefore used in many applications as wear parts and
abrasive grits. However, these ceramics are fast becoming
unacceptable where higher performance is needed such as
in tooling for extrusion and tube drawing of metals.
Higher performance materials such as ZTA, SiC and Sialons
are now increasingly used in these situations despite the
fact that the materials are too sophisticated for the
application and thus the costs are too high. Therefore,
there is a need to develop successful materials between
the two extremes and a major impact will be achieved by
enhancing the properties of alumina and, at the same
time, maintaining reasonable manufacturing costs.

Recent work on nanocomposite ceramics by the partners in
this proposal clearly shows an improvement of 2 3 times
in reduced wear rate for composites consisting of
nanosize SiC particles dispersed in an alumina matrix,
compared to monolithic alumina. This is believed to be
associated with strengthening of the alumina grain
boundaries so that fracture is essentially
transcrystalline, rather than intercrystalline, which
leads to an increase in the ratio of plastic deformation
to brittle fracture near the surface of the ceramic.
These encouraging results have greatly interested
industrialists who would like to apply the benefits
accrued in nanocomposite technology to technical ceramics
and abrasive grits by substituting existing monolithic
alumina materials with cost effective, higher performance
nanocomposites. The objective of this project is to
develop nanocomposites which can be fabricated by
inexpensive processing (water dispersion, pressureless
sintering) and to only use high pressure gas sintering
for high performance parts.

Building on a previous successful BRITE/EURAM project,
two new studies will be carried out:
- a detailed scientific study of new fabrication
routes based on water processing and pressureless
sintering that would define the most economical process
for industrial fabrication of alumina SiC
nanocomposites. It is anticipated this would lead to
applications for wear parts and improved grinding grits
in the short to medium term after the conclusion of
the project.
- a broadly based study to identify potential
nanophases other than SiC for incorporation into
alumina, the most promising of which will be
characterised and assessed.

These new materials should lead to exploitation
possibilities for a range of industrial sectors in the
medium term. The new materials will be tested for wear
resistance under laboratory conditions and in industrial
applications. The modeling of the results of wear
behaviour and other materials properties and their
relationships with processing conditions will allow each
processing step to be improved and optimised to achieve
high performance materials with moderate manufacturing


Call for proposal

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University of Limerick
EU contribution
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National Technological Park
61 Limerick

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Total cost
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Participants (8)