Precision Ceramics, a division of McGeoch Technology, is a company dedicated to the engineering of technical ceramics. From procurement and supply through to technical design and specialist machining, we offer a complete service.
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What is Silicon Nitride (Si3N4)
Silicon nitride (Si3N4) is a hard, solid substance, that can be obtained by direct reaction between silicon and nitrogen at high temperatures. Silicon nitride is the main component in silicon nitride ceramics, which have relatively good shock resistance compared to other ceramics.
Bulk, monolithic silicon nitride is used as a material for cutting tools, due to its hardness, thermal stability, and resistance to wear. It is especially recommended for high speed machining of cast iron. For machining of steel, it is usually coated by titanium nitride (usually by CVD) for increased chemical resistance.
Natural existence of silicon nitride is restricted to meteorites, where it very rarely occurs as mineral nierite.
Production of Silicon Nitride
In microelectronics, silicon nitride is usually formed using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method, or one of its variants, such as plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD). It is usually used either as an insulator layer to electrically isolate different structures or as an etch mask in bulk micromachining. As a passivation layer for microchips, it is superior to silicon dioxide, as it is a significantly better diffusion barrier against water molecules and sodium ions, two major sources of corrosion and instability in microelectronics. It is also used as a dielectric between polysilicon layers in capacitors in analog chips.
Applications of Silicon Nitride
Rollers made of silicon nitride ceramics are sometimes used in high-end skateboard bearings, due to the material's shock and heat-resistant characteristics. It is also used as an ignition source for domestic gas appliances, hot surface ignition. Bulk, monolithic silicon nitride is used as a material for cutting tools, due to its hardness, thermal stability, and resistance to wear. It is especially recommended for high speed machining of cast iron. For machining of steel, it is usually coated by titanium nitride (usually by CVD) for increased chemical resistance.
Typical applications of silicon nitride include electronic components; heat sinks; and turbine blades.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Precision Ceramics.
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