Advanced Particle Analysis for Advanced Ceramics

Advanced Ceramics

Advanced ceramics, also commonly referred to as technical ceramics or engineering ceramics, are synthetic high-performance materials used in high-value, demanding applications where material properties are critical. These applications include:

  • Electronics: Piezoelectrics, capacitors, insulators;
  • Medical: Orthopedic implants, medical imaging, dental prosthetics;
  • Aerospace: Turbine blades, heat shields;
  • Automotive: Engine components, battery separators, catalytic converters;
  • Industrial: Cutting tools, bearings, wear resistance.

Traditional ceramics such as pottery, bricks, and tiles are made from natural raw materials such as clay and quartz. Unlike these, advanced ceramics are synthesized using one or more processes. These include solid-state reaction, precipitation, and sol-gel processing.

Whatever manufacturing route is employed, the ultimate goal is to produce a powder with the right physical and chemical properties for both the next stage of the process (forming and sintering), and the end application. The most important properties of powders are particle size distribution, particle morphology, and surface area. This is because these properties influence powder packing and sintering, which in turn affect green body formation and final part density.

These particle properties are highly dependent on the powder manufacturing process employed.  For example, the size of the precursor materials are important for solid-state processing, while for solution synthesis, controlling conditions such as pH, temperature and concentration are critical.  Solution-based processes such as precipitation often give better chemical homogeneity and greater control over particle size and structure but are not suitable for all materials. These processes also tend to produce agglomerated particles, so post-processing steps such as milling, grinding, and spray drying are often used to enhance powder flow, compaction, and sintering performance.

How Malvern Panalytical’s solutions can help

Many manufacturers of ceramic powders and components use Malvern Panalytical’s range of particle characterization tools to optimize their materials. We offer analytical solutions across a variety of technologies to help these customers innovate.

Zetasizer (zeta potential and particle size)

The Zetasizer can be used to measure and control the zeta potential of primary particles during co-precipitation. Zeta potential is important in advanced ceramics manufacturing because it can affect agglomeration or the stability of dispersions used in the forming process. The Zetasizer is also a particle-sizing tool, making it ideal for measuring the dimensions of sub-micron particles in ceramic dispersions.

Mastersizer 3000+ (particle size)

The Mastersizer 3000+ is the workhorse of the Malvern Panalytical particle sizing range. It is popular for certifying raw materials, and optimizing processes such as milling and spray drying. It works with both wet and dry samples. New features like Data Quality Guidance and Size Sure provide more insight than ever before, especially in spotting oversized particles. 

Insitec (particle size)

Insitec is an on-line particle sizing tool. Like the Mastersizer 3000+, it also uses laser diffraction – but it can be integrated into a production line process for real-time monitoring and control.

Morphologi 4 (particle size and shape)

Morphologi 4 is an automated image analysis system that complements our particle-sizing instruments. Analyzing particle shape, Morphologi 4 provides detailed images of individual ceramic particles, along with information on their size and shape. This makes Morphologi particularly useful for checking the size and sphericity of spray-dried powders.

More from the Malvern Panalytical range

We can offer insights into the properties of your advanced ceramics beyond particle size and shape alone. For example, we offer solutions for X-ray fluorescence, another widely used technique for checking the elemental composition of ceramic materials. In addition, our X-ray diffraction tools provide important information about crystalline phases, crystallite sizes and orientation, and residual stresses. These characteristics also have a significant impact on the chemical and physical properties of a ceramic component. Find out more about them in our next ceramics blog!

Keen to learn more about our solutions? Please visit our website or contact a sales representative.