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Over the last several years, a surge in the production of novel ceramic materials, as well as advancements in the processing techniques for these materials, has allowed researchers to control and manipulate the specific microstructures of technical ceramics for a wide variety of purposes. In doing so, the application of these newly developed ceramic materials into the energy, environment and transportation industries has subsequently emerged as a promising technology that is expected to address global environmental and transportation concerns. To date, the global technical ceramics market industry has been valued at approximately $62.05 billion USD1. As various industries, particularly the transportation sect, continue to utilize the unique properties of novel ceramic materials, some of which include low thermal expansion, robustness and high-temperature stability, this economic growth is expected to continue to rise significantly over the next several years.
Ceramics are typically made up of commonly used and readily available materials such as carbon, silicon, oxygen, and nitrogen that, when consolidated under high-temperatures and pressures, can form ceramic materials that are used for a wide variety of products ranging from household to industrial applications. In comparison, technical ceramics, which are also referred to as engineered or high-performance ceramics, typically originate from more sophisticated compounds including aluminas, carbides, nitrides, borides, and zirconia2. Technical ceramics have traditionally been utilized for various electronic components including capacitors, resistors, semiconductor tools, and engine parts.
Fuel and Economic Effects of Ceramics in Transportation
Since the early 1920’s, ceramics have been incorporated into various automobile components including spark plug insulators and glass windows. As research in this area continued to develop into the early 1980’s, researchers found that technical ceramics were promising materials for the development of advanced engines for motor vehicles such as adiabatic diesel engines, gas turbines, and Stirling engines. Some of the most recent advancements in this area have found that since the high-temperature environments of automotive engines require highly durable materials to withstand these conditions, technical ceramics are able to provide automobiles with the necessary components to ensure peak engine performance while also extending the overall lifespan of all engine components.
Some of the most recent advancements in this area have involved incorporating ceramic coatings to diesel engine combustion chambers in an effort to reduce the heat that passes from in-cylinder to the engine cooling system. In fact, the dramatic ability of these ceramic coatings to reduce heat conductance within these internal combustion engines is expected to completely eliminate the need for engine cooling systems within these vehicles. Ceramic coated diesel engines have also been shown to reduce ignition delay during the initiation of applied engines as a result of the low heat rejection of these materials, thereby allowing a virtually silent engine operation. Additionally, ceramic coated internal combustion engines have also been shown to significantly reduce the amount of soot and carbon monoxide emissions from applied engines3.
Composite Ceramics in Aviation
The turbofan engines that are currently used in most airplanes typically generate thrust be expelling rapidly moving hot gases from their core. In an effort to increase the efficiency of turbofan engines, Connecticut-based engine-maker Pratt & Whitney of United Technologies have developed the PurePower engines that are specifically designed for single-aisle jets. Although numerous engine parts within jets, including turbine blades, are currently coated with ceramic materials that allow engines to withstand temperatures as high as 1,500 ºC4, these coatings are often susceptible to spalling off and even reducing the efficiency of applied blades. What is particularly unique about the PurePower engines is that ceramic fibers have been used to reinforce the ceramic material that comprises this engine. Researchers expect that as commercial jets follow the trend in incorporating ceramic composite engines, fuel efficiency will subsequently increase as the overall engine weight will decrease by as much as 30%4.
- “Technical Ceramics Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Material (Alumina Ceramics, Titanate Ceramics, Zirconate Ceramics, Ferrite Ceramics), By Product, By Application and Segment Forecasts, 2018-2024” – Grand View Research
- Teotia, A. P. S., & Johnson, L. R. “Structural Ceramics in Transportation: Fuel Implications and Economic Effects” – Transportation Research Record 1049
- Murat Ciniviz, Mustafa Sahir Salman, Eyüb Canlı, Hüseyin Köse and Özgür Solmaz (2012). Ceramic Coating Applications and Research Fields for Internal Combustion Engines. Ceramic Coatings - Applications in Engineering, Prof. Feng Shi (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0083-6, InTech.
- “Reshaping Flight for Fuel Efficiency: Five Technologies on the Runway” – National Geographic