“Coarse ceramics” in the Faculty of Materials Engineering

Prof. Wolfgang Krcmar, Dr. rer. nat.

Coarse ceramics is a very old part of today’s silicate ceramic sector. Coarse ceramic products include roof tiles and bricks, ceiling tiles, structural and decorative ceramics, refractory and acid-resistant ceramics, stoneware, and abrasive materials. The difference between fine and coarse ceramics consists in the size of the structural particles and the uniformity of the body structure. If the structural particles in the ceramic body are larger than 0.1 mm, this is referred to as coarse ceramics.
Bricks are the oldest material in the world. The oldest air-dried clay bricks have been dated to around 13,000 BC and the oldest fired bricks to around 7000 BC. Archaeologists have calculated that the Tower of Babel would have required around 85 million bricks. To produce quantities of this magnitude, the brickmakers at that time must have had access to a much older technical development.

Bricks with slotted outer webs (Source: Ceramix AG, Nuremberg)
Ceramix AG, bricks with slotted outer webs

Technological progress has blurred the boundaries between fine and coarse ceramics. Today’s processing technology using the semi-wet process with roller gaps of 0.5 mm, extruder technology, and highly efficient dryer and kiln systems have resulted in an incredible increase in the quality of bricks with homogeneous material properties. Simultaneous process automation keeps the current use of personnel to a minimum and enables the competitive production of high-quality ceramic building materials. Due to its comparatively excellent material properties, the brick can be considered a real all-rounder compared to other building materials. Its economic importance as a building material for walls and roofs is enormous.

Students studying the Silicate and Coarse Ceramics module as part of our bachelor’s degree in Materials Engineering will be taught the basics of coarse ceramics. This includes the clay raw materials and the processes used for their extraction and preparation, mass conditioning and plasticity, moulding, drying, firing, and quality control, as well as technical brick properties. As modern firing technology generates temperatures between 900°C and 1300°C for brick firing, students will also study heat transfer mechanisms and thermal process engineering.

In the Silicate and Coarse Ceramics specialization of our bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes, students will build on their basic knowledge with application-related specialist knowledge from the field of coarse ceramics and the associated production processes. This includes state-of-the-art production processes and product properties and major findings from the current research environment in the heavy clay industry. The lecture material is supplemented by images and film material, numerous samples from practical experience, practical experiments, a final thesis, and industrial study trips.