In the late 1990s, David W. Richerson (with assistance from across the spectrum of the individual and corporate members of The American Ceramic Society) took on the monumental task of writing a broad-based book about ceramics that would be “entertaining, colorful and available to the public.” In other words, it was to be something that would be lively and engaging, but with not so much technical discussion that one had to be an engineer or scientist to follow along. A few years later, Richerson had a draft in hand, and in 2000 ACerS published the first edition of the 12-chapter, 302-page The Magic of Ceramics.
Over the years, TMOC has been one of ACerS’ most popular books and is an easy to use, go-to resource for explaining the surprising and intriguing properties of ceramics and glass to nontechnical readers and lay audiences. Illustrations, photographs and factoids are sprinkled on every page. TMOC has even been used as a textbook in high school and first-year college settings to introduce the world of materials science (although ceramic materials are the focus, the role of metals and plastics used in conjunction with ceramics is also covered).
But—perhaps obviously—engineered ceramics has continued to be a blossoming field since 2000 and TMOC was due for a major update. Along these lines Richerson and ACerS teamed up again (this time with the help of Wiley publishing company) to introduce a new version of TMOC that will be unveiled in a few weeks at the MS&T’12 conference.
In doing the update, Richerson, who currently teaches at the University of Utah and is the manager of minerals for the Natural History Museum of Utah, told me in an interview that he used a couple of methodologies. One of his approaches was to focus on examples of key areas, and show the evolution of the technology. For example, Richerson notes how ceramics has played a broadening role in air quality (think catalytic converters) and energy. In regard to energy-related ceramic materials, Richerson cites recent advances in anything from more efficient conversion of fossil fuels to the enormous blades and rugged bearings in utility-scale windmills.
When I asked him what technologies he thought changed the most since publication of the first edition of TMOC, he confessed that there were a lot of areas, but one of the best examples is silicon chips, semiconductors and integrated circuits. He cites the role of ceramics and glass in everything from the advanced lenses used for photolithography and diffusion furnaces employed in IC production to the hybrid ceramic-metal-polymer packages used in telecommunications devices that allow the ICs to communicate with the outside world. He remembers, “I thought it was remarkable in the first edition when I wrote about the Pentium II technology allowing 7.5 million transistors into a single chip operating at 300 megahertz. By 2010, we had 32 nanometer technology that could pack over 1 billion transistors in a 2-centimeter-square chip running at 3.2 gigahertz,” says Richerson. “Ceramics isn’t the only material, but it is a key enabling technology that makes possible all the miniaturization of cellphones and existing electronic devices, plus new ones, such as flash memory drives.”
Besides providing updates throughout, Richerson says he added three completely new chapters to complete the book:
• “Energy Conservation and Conversion Efficiency,”
• “From Pollution Control to Zero Pollution” and
• “What’s New and What’s Coming.”
Wiley is taking advanced orders for the new edition of The Magic of Ceramics, which will begin shipping Oct. 9, 2012. The price is $59.95 and Wiley is offering a 25 percent discount with the promo code CERAM. In the meantime, Richerson, ACerS and Wiley are offering a free chapter (pdf) from the new book.