Ceramics & Composites

Ceramics typically include a combination of ionic and covalent bonds to form a material with high modulus and hardness, high melting point, high thermal expansion and corrosion resistance. Because these materials may be brittle, fracture toughness is also an important mechanical property. Composites are made from two or more materials with different mechanical properties that produce a desired set of properties when combined. 

Advanced ceramic and composite materials are applied to many industries, including automotive, renewable or alternative energy, healthcare, electronics, and aerospace. 

The microstructure of ceramic material can be characterized using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). As shown here, a backscattered electron detector(BSD) image indicates material differences with heavier elements brighter in the SEM image compared to lighter elements. This contrast provides easy thresholding to determine grain sizes and coverage.


Back-Scatter Image of a Ceramic Sample Acquired with the Phenom Desktop SEM

BSD SEM image of ceramic material from CoorsTekImage Courtesy of CoorsTek.


Elements can be identified and material stoichiometry measured using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) with SEM for elemental analysis. 

Mechanical properties are measured using microhardness testing or nanoindentation, depending upon the required load. These properties can then be correlated back to ceramic microstructure. 

Atomic force microscopy provides material properties on the nanoscale, using advanced modes to measure viscoelasticity, piezoelectricity or relative compliance.


Measure Grain Sizes
Measure Grain Sizes

Quantify grain size distribution for ceramic materials using SEM

Mechanical Property Mapping of Composites
Mechanical Property Mapping of Composites

Mapping provides information unattainable by bulk mechanical testing

Mechanical Property Mapping of Ceramics
Mechanical Property Mapping of Ceramics

Instrumented indentation mapping of alumina and toughened zirconia

Correlate Ceramic Microstructure to Mechanical Properties
Correlate Ceramic Microstructure to Mechanical Properties

Correlate modulus and hardness maps to ceramic grain distribution

Elemental ID for Ceramic Materials
Elemental ID for Ceramic Materials

Identify elemental distribution using EDS with SEM

Nanoscale Phase Distribution
Nanoscale Phase Distribution

Advanced atomic force microscopy imaging for ceramics and composites