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The Ceramic Material for Extreme Applications
Silicon nitrides (Si3N4) feature an excellent combination of material properties. They are nearly as light as silicon carbide (SiC), but their microstructure gives them excellent thermal shock resistance and their high fracture toughness makes them resistant to impacts and shocks.Silicon nitride has been used in a number of industrial applications, such as engine components, bearings and cutting tools.Silicon nitride has better high temperature capabilities than most metals combining retention of high strength and creep resistance with oxidation resistance.  In addition, its low thermal expansion coefficient gives good thermal shock resistance compared with most ceramic materials.

Worth knowing:

Properties of Silicon Nitride (Si3N4)

  • Very low density (3.21 g/cm3)

  • Very high fracture toughness (7 MPam1/2)

  • Good flexural strength (850 MPa)

  • Very good thermal shock resistance: High thermal stress parameters (569 K)

  • Maximum operating temperature in an oxidizing atmosphere: 1,300°C

  • Maximum operating temperature in a neutral atmosphere: 1,600°C

Aluminiumoxid GefügebildLook at the following properties of silicon nitride:
? low density
? high temperature strength
? superior thermal shock resistance
? excellent wear resistance
? good fracture toughness
? mechanical fatigue and creep resistance
? good oxidation resistance

The material is used currently in niche market applications for example in reciprocating engine components and turbochargers, bearings, metal cutting and shaping tools and hot metal handling.
The microstructure consists of elongated crystals that interlock into micro-rods. One application where this combination of properties has proven particularly useful is the machining of gray cast iron or cast iron with ceramic inserts. Unlike hard metals or other cutting materials, machining processes can be performed with ceramic inserts at maximum speed without the use of cooling lubricants. The combination of good tribological properties and excellent fracture toughness makes silicon nitride ceramics predestined for applications as balls and rolling elements for light and extremely precise bearings, heavyduty ceramic forming tools and automotive components subject to high stress. And the good thermal shock resistance and high temperature resistance is exploited in welding processes.

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