Do you know what ceramics is? Chances are that your answer will be less than clear and concise – ‘it’s what cups are made of’ probably being one of the most common ones. And it is not wrong, just slightly incomplete.
Ceramics is a material that is created by heat treating clay at a certain temperature. There are different kinds of ceramics, starting with earthenware, bricks (yes, bricks), pottery, up to the fine porcelain (commonly referred to as ‘china’).
Despite listing just some of the basic uses of ceramics, this material has an incredible range of applications in today’s world. We reached out to injection molding experts at Wunder Mold, who specialize in injection molding ceramics to share some of the applications this material has.
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Why Ceramics Is So Useful
One of the major reasons why ceramics is such a sought-after material are its physical properties. Ceramics can be very durable and hard, making it last long. It is also non-conductive and heat resistant, which is why it has found application in electronics, and also doesn’t corrode – a suitable substitute for metals in certain applications.
Keep in mind that ceramics is not the super-material that will solve all of our problems. It has its own problems. One of the biggest is that it is brittle, so if physical damage is likely, ceramics is not the ideal material for that application.
Hearing that someone has a titanium screw in their bones, or a metallic (or even plastic) hip is no longer strange to most of us. Medical advancements have enabled us to use a variety of materials to replace or enhance our body parts.
However, in recent years, some of the materials that we got used to have shown some problems – some have been shown to be toxic to our bodies, whereas others may become prohibitively expensive. That’s why continual innovation and experimentation work to our advantage.
Researchers were able to create ceramic materials which are porous and light, mimicking our natural bone so well that natural bone grows around it.
A more common and familiar medical application for ceramics are tooth fillings. Once again, thanks to some special formulas, the ceramics that goes in our teeth is able to bond with our natural tooth material and form very strong bonds.
The porous ceramic material has another great property – it can store some other chemicals in those pores. That’s why ceramics has also found its way into our cars, as a way to reduce the pollution that comes out of our tailpipes.
The catalytic converter is probably not a part of the car you think about a lot. You may not even have heard of it. But without it, it is likely that your car wouldn’t meet the environmental standards. So, the next time you’re driving somewhere, remember to thank ceramics for enabling it.
Another use of ceramics is in advanced braking systems. Not all cars have (or need) ceramic brakes, but those that do experience much better braking than with metal brakes. This comes mostly from ceramics’ heat resistance, making friction less of a problem than with metal brakes.
A Whole Range of Electronics
As mentioned in the introduction, ceramics is (in its basic state) non-conductive. That means that electrical insulators and resistors can be made out of this light and durable material.
As a result, ceramics have found application in electronics from the smallest scale in our smart devices and home electronics, to the largest scale in huge power plants and power distribution centers. Wherever you need to insulate something from electricity and heat, ceramics is among the best materials.