Ceramic Science and Engineering
When you hear the word “ceramics,” people usually think of an image of pottery or space shuttle tiles. What many people don’t realize is that ceramics and ceramic engineering play an important role almost everywhere you look and sometimes where you can’t look. Besides everyday objects, ceramics are helping computers and other electronic devices operate, improving people’s health in various ways, providing global telecommunications, and protecting soldiers during combat.
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In the most simple of terms, ceramics are inorganic, nonmetallic materials. They are typically crystalline in nature (have an ordered structure) and are compounds formed between metallic and nonmetallic elements such as aluminum and oxygen (alumina, Al2O3), calcium and oxygen (CaO), and silicon and nitrogen (silicon nitride, Si3N4). In broader terms, ceramics also include glass (which has a non-crystalline or amorphous random structure), enamel (a type of glassy coating), glass-ceramics (a glass containing ceramic crystals), and inorganic cement-type materials (cement, plaster and lime). However, as ceramic technology has developed over time, the definition has expanded to include a much wider range of other compositions used in a variety of applications.
The word “ceramic” is traced back to the Greek term keramos, meaning potter’s clay or pottery. Keramos, in turn, is related to an older Sanskrit root, meaning “to burn.” Ceramus or Keramos was also an ancient city on the north coast of the Aegean Sea in what is present-day Turkey.
The word Keramos lives on as the national professional ceramic engineering fraternity.