Classical Mineral Processing Principles in Technical Ceramics Applications

Venkataraman, K. S.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1990
The physical properties of clay-water systems depend on the complicated system of forces between the clay particles themselves, and between the clay particles and the ions in the liquid phase. The kind and distribution of ions in, on, and between the clay particles and the size and the shape of the particles are the basic factors determining the macroscopic behavior of clay-water systems. Understanding the system requires a knowledge of the nature of the clay particles, their size, structure, composition, and surface properties, and of the manner in which they interact with ions [and molecules] in the surrounding liquid [or other medium]. The validity of Professor Brindley's words (Brindley, 1958), written three decades ago in the context of making pottery, whitewares, and electrical porcelains, transcends time, and the basic message is perhaps all the more important in the considerably expanded use of ceramics for structural, thermal, tribological, electronic, and other applications. Silicon carbide, silicon nitride, and sialons have been studied in the last two decades for high- temperature structural and tribological applications, particularly for using in internal combustion engines. Titanates, zirconates and niobates of barium, strontium and lead, have high dielectric constants, and are extensively used in the formulations for making capacitors. Hexagonal ferrites (molecular formula MO.6Fe2O3) are in use for making permanent magnets for fabricating miniature motors, and for assembling loud speakers, particle accelerators etc. Cubic ferrites such as magnesium-zinc ferrite and nickel-zinc ferrite are used as transformer cores, and for other high-frequency applications. In this context, Richerson's recent book (Richerson, 1984) on the general scope of traditional and technical ceramics is a good starting point for an overview of contemporary ceramics technology. Glasses are a whole class of amorphous materials used widely as sintering aids, and for making glass-bonded ceramics and glass-ceramic composites. Composites are yet another burgeoning field where two or more particulate components are used for improving the performance of ceramics. For all these applications, the inorganic starting materials are almost always submicron and near-micron powders. Understanding the powders' physicochemical properties, and their surface chemical interactions with the surrounding liquid/gaseous medium is-necessary for making reliable ceramic parts at competitive prices. Even though ceramics science and engineering has attained its separate identity in universities and the industry, ceramists themselves would concede that ceramics science is a cross-disciplinary field, having incorporated and assimilated within itself many principles from several apparently disjointed disciplines. Principles of material science, graduate-level physics and chemistry, polymer science, surface and colloid chemistry, transport phenomena, particle technology, unit operations commonly used in chemical engineering and mineral processing, and statistics and applied mathematics are integral part of any ceramics curriculum in universities. Added to this is the fact that all bench-scale successes in making ceramic parts are to be scaled-up for larger throughput operations. Understanding and applying process engineering principles of comminution, classification, drying, calcination, etc. then becomes essential. CERAMIC FORMING: Despite the diversity of the materials and processes, conceptually, the steps involved in making ceramic parts have remained the same over several decades: The different components for making the pan (usually one or more powders plus other forming and sintering additives) are proportioned and mixed thoroughly, and the well-mixed formulations are consolidated into desirable shapes known as "green bodies." Usually binders such as wax, clay, organic polymers and surfactants, whether dispersed or dissolved in a suitable liquid are used during mixing the batch for giving strength for the green bodies. In the dried green state, the inorganic powders typically occupy only 55 to 60% of the bulk volume of the body, depending on the particle size distributions of the powders and the forming history, with mostly inter- particle voids accounting for the rest of the void volume. SINTERING: The formed bodies are then fired in high- temperatures kilns/furnaces during which the parts are exposed to a predetermined temperature profile, and "soaked" for a certain duration at the final high temperatures, typically between 1200 K and 1900 K, and then cooled to room temperature. The gaseous atmosphere in the furnace is controlled (oxidizing, reducing, or inert) when necessary. During the initial stages of firing, volatile liquids evaporate, and during the intermediate temperatures between 400 and 600 K, the the organic polymeric additives pyrolize and oxidize into water vapor, CO, C02, and other gases. At still high temperature, the glasses, when present, soften, and simultaneously, the ceramic particles rearrange into a network of grains with definite grain boundaries so as to reduce the total interfacial free
Full Article Download:
(649 kb)