Effect of Electric Current on Ceramic Processing
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This work was on the effect of electric current on the processing of ceramics. The focus was on electromigration/electrochemistry and plasma effects. While there is no solid evidence that there is plasma in Spark Plasma Sintering, (SPS), newer techniques e.g. flash, use different conditions so there is an interest in understanding the conditions under which a plasma forms. The minimum arcing voltage was found from literature to be from 10-15V for materials of interest. This is above that found in SPS (10V). However, due to the many contact points in a powder compact much higher voltages (50V) were required in practical experiments. Optical spectroscopy was used to verify the formation of a plasma, and emission peaks from the powder compact material were visible implying they were vaporised and formed the plasma. Electromigration was exploited to alter the oxidation of zirconium diboride, by passing current through the oxide layer (120μm zirconia base grown at 1200°C) oxygen could be pumped either away or toward the diboride bulk. Small cubes (3mm) of diboride had platinum foil electrodes applied on both sides and oxidation was performed at 1400°C for 5hr. Without a field the oxide grew to 360μm, by applying 10V and 100mA the oxide grew to 150μm under the +ve electrode but 1400μm under the -ve electrode. Electrochemical reduction was believed to have occurred due to the electrical properties of the material changing during oxidation and visible blackening of the oxide. Combining the techniques from both earlier works, a contactless flash sintering setup was developed. This used two plasma arcs as electrodes to heat and pass current through the sample. Various materials, currents and times were used, but the best result was with SiC:B4C which was sintered in 3s with 6A, the microstructure showed sharp grains, no segregation and limited grain growth ( initially 0.7μm SiC and 0.5μm B4C, this grew to 1.1μm and 1.4μm). This was the first recorded case of contactless flash sintering and the technique has the potential to sinter ceramics in a continuous manner.
AuthorsSaunders, Theo Graves
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