China’s Flexible Ceramic Substance Can Bring Tech Revolutions

Chinese researchers have created the first flexible ceramic substance in the world that can flex like metal. This development, if true, could improve artificial joints and engine performance.

China's Flexible Ceramic Substance Can Bring Tech Revolutions

Chinese researchers have created the first flexible ceramic substance in the world that can flex like metal. This development, if true, could improve artificial joints and engine performance.

Before this discovery, it was commonly believed that a ceramic’s flexibility and strength were opposites and that either would worsen if the other improved.
Chen Kexin, a materials scientist who led the research, says that the new material is the first time scientists have made both stronger and lighter at the same time. It has the hardness of ceramic and the flexibility of metal.

“This ceramic can bring technological revolutions to many industries,” said Chen, a professor at the department of engineering and material sciences at the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

On October 27, Chen and associates from Tsinghua University published their findings in the journal Science. In an opinion piece in the same issue of Science, Erkka Frankberg of Tampere University in Finland said that the discovery “could lead to materials that are lighter and stronger than even the best metal alloys of today.”
“There has been research on plasticity of ceramics around the world since I started my career 30 years ago. It can be said that today we have finally achieved a breakthrough on that topic,” Chen said.

Flexible ceramic substance could be used to make light, fuel-efficient aerospace engines.

The new ceramic uses nanotechnology to make it flexible.
The scientists created nanopillars with two different crystal formations using silicon nitride. When an outside force is put on one crystal structure, it can change into another type. This lets the material bend before going back to its original shape.

The substance may be particularly advantageous for creating aeronautical engines. Ceramic materials are durable, lightweight, and heat-tolerant. Flexible ceramic engines might function at significantly greater temperatures and with far better fuel efficiency than typical alloy engines.

Originally published at Interesting Engineering

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