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Optimising the microstructure of transformation toughened wear resistant materials based on zirconia


Research objectives and content
Even though it is possible to realise high toughness values in pure zirconia ceramics, a serious drawback for heavy duty wear applications of these materials is their lack of hardness. It is proposed to study the feasibility of increasing the hardness of zirconia based ceramics by the addition of a tungsten carbide, while maintaining the high toughness of the matrix material through the transformation toughening mechanism. The possible application of these composites for cutting tools will be explored.The project comprises the following tasks: 1. Processing of cerartic composites. The candidate will receive training in this field and will study a number of processing variables that will affect the toughness and the hardness of the composites produced.2. Characterisation of microstructure and determination of basic properties:the candidate will study the relationship between microstructural parameters and the hardness and toughness of the composites produced.3. Chemical wear studies will be carried out in order to assess and model the interaction with iron and aluminium based workpiece materials.4. Instrumented machining tests will allow to test the fitness for purpose of the composites and test the predictive capacity of the chemical wear model.
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
In order to achieve the aims of the project the applicant needs to develop expertise in ceramic processing and to adapt his electron microscopical skills to the study of ceramic rather than metallic based materials. Training will be provided in the interpretation of EELS spectra obtained during this study. Moreover,additional training will be provided into the understanding of chemical wear and machining tests.It is anticipated that at the end of this project the applicant will be able to set up a second research group in his country of origin, which is a less favoured EU region, and therefore extent the research activities inthis area to a second EU country. Currently, in Greece there is an emerging interest on advanced ceramic tools chemically compatible to aluminium, since in his country significant aluminium production takes place. Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)
There is a strong industrial interest in cutting tools with an improved chemical compatibility with aluminium alloys and steels in the automotive industry. There is also a need for development of cutting tools which are suitable for machining new construction materials in the aerospace and other industries such as nickel and cobalt alloys and polymer based composites.KU. Leuven has been collaborating in this field with Belgian and other European industries and if the project is successful follow up in an industrial context is possible e.g. within the context of an on-going BRITE-EURAM project.

Funding Scheme

RGI - Research grants (individual fellowships)


Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
2,W. De Croylaan 2
3001 Heverlee