[Image above] Zachary Grasley, left, accepts his best paper award plaque and certificate from JACerS editor-in-chief Bill Fahrenholtz. Credit: ACerS

Among the thousands of manuscripts submitted to the Journal of the American Ceramic Society each year, a few stand out for the significant impact they have on the ceramic and glass research community. Of these articles, the editors of JACerS chose 19 as the best submissions from 2018 and invited the authors to present their work at The American Ceramic Society 121st Annual Meeting at MS&T 2019 in Portland, Ore., last week.

Fifteen of the authors presented their work at the 2nd annual JACerS Award Symposium on Wednesday, October 2. During the morning session, which consisted of seven interesting and informative presentations, most authors focused on ionic and electronic conductivity mechanisms and applications for advanced energy solutions, though authors also discussed creep in hydrated cement and titanate glasses for nuclear fuel and waste containment. I was particularly intrigued by a presentation on conversion of cod-fish bones to nontoxic sunscreens.

The afternoon session, which featured eight presentations on a variety of topics, included several papers from the special issue of the 2017 International Conference on Sintering (Volume 102, Issue 2). Unfortunately, my travel plans prevented me from viewing the special issue presentations—as they were near the end of the session—but I am certain they were as outstanding as those I did attend.

Three of the afternoon’s presentations resonated with me for very different reasons. Using barium fluoride as a carrier for neodymium for laser applications reminded me of my own graduate research—my fellow students and I attempted to replace the sodium in beta aluminas (and related materials) with neodymium without much success due to vastly different ionic sizes and charges. The quest to find better alternatives to yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) continues to this day.

I was also intrigued by the presentation on using gelled foams as direct-printing inks in additive manufacturing. While much of the research on macroporous foams focuses on creating nonporous struts in order to have sufficient mechanical strength, the authors presented many advantages to their fabrication methods that resulted in nanoporous cell walls. Perhaps most important, they demonstrated that strong alumina foams with uniform, high surface area pore structures could be sintered at relatively low temperatures.

Prior to this session, grain boundaries were somewhat of a mystery to me. They were the connections among grains that hindered properties, such as conduction, or enhanced properties, such as crack resistance. But to me they seemed a result of sintering conditions rather than a driving force for bulk material properties. A presentation on grain boundary engineering, though, showed me that advanced characterization techniques and simulations of grain boundaries have revealed complex thermodynamics and kinetic behaviors, which are being used by ceramic engineers to control material performance.

You can read more about these topics and the rest of the award-winning articles in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society. Below is a list of the 19 articles with links to them on

Large electric-field-induced strain and enhanced piezoelectric constant in CuO modified BiFeO3-BaTiO3 ceramics
Thermophysical properties of rare earth barium aluminates
Superior temperature-stable dielectrics for MLCCs based on Bi0.5Na0.5TiO3-NaNbO3 system modified by CaZrO3
First-principles study in an inter-granular glassy film model of silicon nitride
Creep and relaxation of cement paste caused by stress-induced dissolution of hydrated solid components
Sintering forces acting among particles during sintering by grain boundary/surface diffusion
Structural and spectroscopic investigations on the crystallization of uranium brannerite phases in glass

Ultra-rapid microwave sintering of pure and Y2O3-doped MgAl2O4
In situ observations of cracking in constrained sintering
Thermochemical model on the carbothermal reduction of oxides during spark plasma sintering of zirconium diboride
Polar domain structural evolution under electric field and temperature in the (Bi0.5Na0.5)TiO3-0.06BaTiO3 piezoceramics
Fabrication and properties of transparent Nd-doped BaF2 ceramics
Lead-reduced Bi(Ni2/3Ta1/3)O3-PbTiO3 perovskite ceramics with high curie temperature and performance
Microstructure–conductivity relationship of Na3Zr2(SiO4)2 PO4 ceramics
Energy efficient spark plasma sintering: Breaking the threshold of large dimension tooling energy consumption
Review of grain boundary complexion engineering: Know your boundaries
Silica foams with ultra-large specific surface area structured by hollow mesoporous silica spheres
Increased UV absorption of natural hydroxyapatite-based sunscreen through laser ablation modification in liquid
Conductivity of iron-doped strontium titanate in the quenched and degraded states