Carbothermal Production of Silicon Nitride

Mallette, D. ; Pickles, C. A. ; Simpson, C.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1990
Silicon nitride (Si3N4 ) is an advanced structural ceramic materia1 which is presently being considered for a number of potential engineering applications, particularly in heat engines, gas turbines, and electronics. With respect to other structural ceramics, silicon nitride has relatively low thermal conductivity and thermal expansion coefficients and a moderate elastic modulus. Thus, during thermal cycling the stresses developed in this material are lower than in other structural ceramics. At the present time silicon nitride is produced via three main processes: thermal decomposition of silicon imide or amide, treatment of silicon tetrachloride or silane vapour with ammonia and nitriding of silicon powder. These three methods of production are discussed with particular attention to the effect of morphology and phase content on the properties of the final product. In this work carbothermal production of silicon nitride has been studied in a high temperature resistance furnace. Compacted briquettes of silica and carbon were produced which were reacted in a nitrogen atmosphere. The optimum reaction temperature and the carbon to silica ratio were found to be 1425OC and ten to one, respectively. The presence of large amounts of ash in the reductant promoted the formation of silicon nitride. The specific surface area of the briquettes did not have a large effect over the range studied in the present work. Briquette seeding with small amounts of Si3N4 was effective in increasing the reaction rates.
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