Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 535–552 | Cite as

Silicon nitride: the engineering material of the future

Anniversary Review

Abstract

The purpose of this review is to present the recent developments in silicon nitride (Si3N4) ceramics and to examine the achievements regarding our understanding of the relationship between processing conditions, chemical composition, microstructure and mechanical properties of Si3N4. Si3N4 is one of the most important structural ceramics because it possesses a combination of advanced properties such as good wear and corrosive resistance, high flexural strength, good fracture resistance, good creep resistance and relatively high hardness. These properties are obtained through the processing method involving liquid phase sintering in which a tailored microstructure, with high aspect ratio grains and chemistry of intergranular phase, triggers the toughening and strengthening mechanisms leading to the development of high fracture toughness and fracture strength. However, despite high fracture toughness and strength, Si3N4 ceramic materials still break catastrophically, and the fracture behaviour of this ceramic is considered to be the major obstacle for its wider use as a structural material. In addition to the macrostructure–mechanical properties relationship, this paper also reviews new designs involving laminates possessing no plane of weakness and some theoretical developments involving crack opening displacement. Proposals of how to improve the fracture resistance were also discussed.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Advanced Ceramics-Mechanical and Materials DepartmentQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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