What Are the New Sintering Methods of Zirconia Ceramics?

With the continuous development of science, sintering methods of zirconia ceramics are continuously introduced.

Electric field sintering

Electric field sintering refers to the sintering of the ceramic body under the action of a DC electric field. Some high-curie-point ferroelectric ceramics, such as lithium niobate ceramics, apply a DC field to both ends of the green body at their sintering temperature. After cooling to a temperature below the Curie point (Te-1210 ℃) and removing the electric field, you can obtain Piezoelectric ceramic samples.

Sintering process


Ultrahigh pressure sintering

Ultra-high pressure sintering is sintering at a pressure of several hundred thousand atmospheres or more. Its characteristics are that it cannot only make the material reach high density quickly, and have fine grains (less than 1um), but also change the crystal structure and even the atomic and electronic states, so that the material cannot be reached under the usual sintering or hot-pressing sintering process Performance, and can synthesize new artificial minerals. This process is relatively complicated and requires higher mold materials, vacuum sealing technology, and fineness and purity of raw materials.

Activated sintering

The principle of activated sintering is to use some physical or chemical methods to make the atoms or molecules of the reactants in a high-energy state before or during sintering. With the instability of this high-energy state, it is easy to release energy Low energy state. The physical methods used in activated sintering include electric field sintering, magnetic field sintering, sintering under the action of ultrasound or radiation, and so on; the chemical methods used are: chemical reactions based on redox reactions, dissociation of oxides, halides, and hydroxides, and atmospheric sintering. Activated sintering has the advantages of reducing the sintering temperature, shortening the sintering time, and improving the sintering effect.

For some ceramic materials, activated sintering is another effective texturing technique. There is also the use of substances in the phase change, dehydration and other decomposition processes, the atom or ion bond is destroyed, making it in an unstable active state. For example, increase the specific surface area; add substances that can generate new erbium molecules during the sintering process; add substances that can promote the sintering material to form a solid solution; increase the lattice defect substances, all of which are activated sintering. In addition, activated sintering also includes adding a small number of substances that can form an active liquid phase, promote the vitrification of materials, appropriately reduce the viscosity of the liquid phase, wet the solid phase, and promote solid-phase dissolution and recrystallization.

Activated hot sintering

Activated hot-pressing sintering is a new process developed on the basis of activated sintering. It utilizes an activated state with higher energy during the decomposition reaction or phase change of the reactants to perform hot-pressing treatment, which can be performed at lower temperature and lower pressure. It is a high-efficiency hot pressing technology to obtain high-density ceramic materials in a short time. For example, barium titanate, lead zirconium titanate, ferrite, and other electronic ceramics are made by hot pressing by the decomposition reaction of hydroxide and oxide; high-density beryllium oxide, thorium oxide and uranium oxide ceramics were prepared by hot pressing of carbonate decomposition reaction; high-density alumina ceramics are made by hot pressing during phase transition of some materials.

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Can Zirconia Ceramics be used as Wearables?

Zirconia ceramics enter the consumer electronics represented by mobile phones in three subdivisions.

  • The main application area is the back cover of the mobile phone, which is mainly used to upgrade and supplement plastic, glass and metal materials.
  • The second is the patch or the case of the wearable device used for fingerprint identification, which mainly benefits from the increase in the installed rate of the fingerprint reader and the replacement of sapphire.
  • Finally, it is used for small structural parts such as lock screen and volume button, which is a continuation of the ceramic button business in the era of the functional machine.
ZrO2 Back Cover of the Mobile Phone
ZrO2 Back Cover of the Mobile Phone

In contrast, zirconia has a density of 6 grams per cubic meter, the heaviest of all materials. Fortunately, zirconia ceramics can be controlled by thickness, keeping the total weight to a level lighter than glass. Besides, the back set of fine CNC processing required time and high cost because of the superior wear-resisting performance of ceramics. As a result, zirconia has exploded more quickly in areas such as fingerprint recognition, wearable devices and the back cover of mobile phones, where it is more cost-effective.

Apple Watch

As early as April 2015, the Apple Watch went on the market and used zirconia ceramic material as the rear cover appearance for the first time, which brings the wearables’ ceramic facade to a climax. Compared with metals and plastics, zirconia ceramics are wear-resistant and skin-friendly, making them more suitable for use on wearable devices. In addition, the airtightness and waterproof of wearable devices determine that most of them adopt wireless charging mode, and the ceramic material is used as the rear cover with small signal shielding, which is obviously superior to the metal material.

Due to the aesthetic and waterproof considerations, most wearable devices have the function of wireless charging, and the wireless charging scheme of the non-metal back shell is easier to design. From the perspective of shielding efficiency, zirconia ceramics, as a non-metal material, have no shielding effect on electromagnetic signals, and will not affect the internal antenna layout at all. Therefore, it can be conveniently shaped into a whole, instead of making an ugly segmented structure like aluminum magnesium alloy. Arguably, Apple’s Apple Watch led the trend of zirconia ceramics being the back cover of wearables.

Apple Watch

Wearable devices

In addition, zirconia ceramics also have the following advantages as wearable devices. As mentioned above, zirconia ceramics have higher dielectric constants that make fingerprint scanners work more sensitively and cost significantly less than sapphires. The Mohs hardness of zirconia ceramics is around 8.5, which is very close to that of sapphire 9. Given all the advantages of zirconia ceramics, it is expected that it will become the preferred rear cover material in the field of wearable devices in the future.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality zirconia ceramics and related machining products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit http://www.samaterials.com for more information.