Ceramics have been used by man for thousands of years and will continue to be used into the future, thanks to their many properties. These materials are resistant to many forms of damage including, perhaps most importantly, damage from heat, and this is why many want to use it in technologies such as gas turbine engines and hypersonic jets. Before they can be though, researchers have to better understand how ceramics stand up under load, which is what those at Berkeley Lab are making possible.
The composite ceramics of the future are going to be used in situations with high pressure and high heat, and while they may not easily develop large cracks, small ones, just a micron in size, can be big trouble. Testing them under those extreme conditions is not easy though, because few other materials can survive them, but researchers at Berkeley Lab have found a way to do so. With a special rig connected to the Advanced Light Source, the researchers are able to perform X-ray tomography on the ceramics when they are exposed to temperatures as high as 1750 ºC and are under load.
This research could revolutionize ceramic composites as it enables direct observations to be made of the materials while they are being stressed, noninvasively. Such an ability makes it perfect for testing and creating models of how composite ceramics fracture.