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Technical ceramics are one of several materials, such as glass, plastics and metals, that can be used to protect the environment as well as help regenerate damaged ecosystems. The use of technology created from these materials for this purpose is known as environmental engineering.
One of the most well-known pieces of technology developed for environmental engineering is the λ (lambda) sensor. The sensor is an exhaust gas oxygen sensor and is used in vehicles to measure and control the air/fuel ratio in exhaust gases. This allows a three-way catalytic converter to reduce engine emissions.
With environmental policies like IS 14001 and EMAS, as well as natural competitiveness of industries means that there has been a surge in demand for energy efficiency and reduced material wastage. In addition to this the need to reduce the cost of production without losing the quality of the products often lead indirectly to a low environmental impact. (Treffpunkt Keramik)
In particular, technical ceramics have many properties that aid environmentally friendly products. Their ability to withstand temperatures above 1000 °C mean that they are perfect to use in photovoltaic, solar energy conversion as well as for other power plant engine systems. In addition to this, ceramic components have high resistance to thermal shock, wear and corrosive attack. This means that they are good to use in environmental technology in the water processing and treatment industry.
They are also a good choice for use in transporting and sorting waste during the recycling process because they resist corrosion. Morgan Technical Ceramics took advantage of this property when developing their ceramic membranes for water filtration and purification of industrial wastewater. The company, based in Worcestershire in the UK, manufactures ceramic components that can be used in various industries in order to make them more environmentally friendly.
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Another leader in the technical ceramics industry is Ceramtec. Ceramtec create many ceramic components that have been used all over the world. Most notably, they have developed silicon nitride ceramic roller bearings that are used in wind turbines. This bearing is made of a material that is resistant to wear, temperature and chemical corrosion. The material is advertised as ideal for ‘maintenance-intensive applications’, such as turbines, tidal power stations or chemical industries. It has high electrical resistance and low friction which means that they are especially good for use in generators or machines which have a high maintenance cost. (Cermatec, 2014)
There is a wide range of technical ceramics available for use in the environmental engineering sector. These range from dens-sintered monolithic oxide ceramics to filter ceramics, including piezoceramics, magnetic ceramics and fiber-reinforced ceramics.
It should be noted that many of these technical ceramics are used mostly in components that are subjected to high stresses rather than environmental issues. This is especially so when the component requires extreme stress resistance because technical ceramics can be far superior to other non-ceramic materials, like steel. This is usually due to there ability to resist wear, meaning that they have long serviceability and are thought to be reliable when part of rough machinery.
Cermatec. (2014, April 14). Silicon Nitride Ceramics for Roller Bearing Technology. Retrieved from Ceramtec.com: https://www.ceramtec.com/news/archive/year/2014/id/1843/silicon-nitride-ceramics-for-roller-bearing-technology/
Treffpunkt Keramik. (n.d.). Environmental Engineering. Retrieved from ceramic-applications.com: https://www.ceramic-applications.com/applications.html?cat1_id=2195