Roy Warren Rice, 76, died April 29, 2011. He was a long-time resident of Alexandria, Va.
Rice was active in ceramic research and development often exploring new areas; he was never one to shy away from unexplored areas. In his early studies at Boeing, he and V. Edlin showed that fine pure magnesium oxide powders could be hot-pressed to full density and transparency (quite a feat in those days), and that small lithium fluoride additions greatly enhanced densification of many oxide ceramics. In those early days, he also explored hot working of ceramics as a method for forming more complex shapes.
In the late 1960s, Rice was recruited to initiate a new ceramics program at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he pushed into new research areas with gusto and a unique sense of curiosity. He became recognized for his work on fractography, as well as fracture, and provided many new insights into the role of microstructure and processing on the fracture and mechanical reliability of ceramics. Rice demonstrated that the grinding direction had a major impact on the tensile and flexure strength of ceramics and other brittle materials as result of the alignment of surface damage and grinding grooves.
Rice actively participated in the initiation of a Navy program on silicon nitride ceramics for engine applications, to which he and his research group at NRL made a number of contributions. His group also did extensive research on piezoelectrics as well as radome and irdome materials. Later interest in the development of fiber-reinforced ceramic composites gained Rice’s attention, particularly regarding issues with developing suitable fiber coatings, when he made a substantial contribution through his development of boron nitride coating technology.
Later Rice’s curiosity turned to address the complex problem of the effects of pore content and shape on ceramic properties, where the models typically used covered only a limited range of pore content. He demonstrated that the “maximum solid area” methods provided greater versatility in modeling porosity effects on ceramic properties.
Before retiring in 1994, Rice worked as Director of Materials Research of W.R. Grace & Co.
During his career, Rice published more than 300 technical papers including three books and was granted 30 patents. He was an American Ceramic Society Fellow and served ACerS in many capacities. Besides holding all the offices of the Society’s Basic Science Division, he served as ACerS Vice-President in 1978 and as was an associate editor of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society for many years. He was also an ASM Fellow. In 2006, Rice was presented with the American Ceramics Society’s John Jeppson award in recognition of his many contributions to ceramics science and technology.
See also photo slide show of Rice’s life here.