High-performance and functional ceramics in the Faculty of Materials Engineering

Prof. Hannes Kühl

When we use the term high-performance and functional ceramics, we are generally referring to oxide and non-oxide ceramic materials, with the exception of silicate ceramics, i.e. “traditional” ceramic materials such as porcelain or steatite. The importance of high-performance and functional ceramics has increased enormously over the last few decades. Without them, hardly any of today’s technical innovations would be possible.

However, these materials are mostly used for hidden components that do not immediately catch the eye. We need only look at a car, where there are at least 20 different high-performance or functional ceramic components that no modern vehicle could do without. These include:

In the bachelor’s degree programme in Materials Engineering, students are taught the fundamentals of non-silicate ceramics, including process engineering. All ceramic components are made of ceramic powders, which are densified by means of a process known as sintering. You will also learn about the various moulding techniques (pressing techniques, ceramic injection moulding, extrusion) and come to understand which technique is best for which components. In addition, the course focuses on the basics of the essential material properties. You will learn to understand why ceramics are brittle materials and how they can be characterized.

By taking the Non-silicate Ceramics specialization as part of the bachelor’s or master’s programmes, students will build on their basic knowledge with application-related specialist knowledge from the field of high-performance and functional ceramics. First, you will further your knowledge of the basics of material properties. How do we bring about transformation toughening in zirconium dioxide ceramics, for example? Why is the thermal conductivity of aluminium nitride so high? How can I produce transparent ceramics? How does the piezoelectric effect occur in special functional ceramics? What causes ion conduction in zirconium oxide, which is the basis for fuel cell technology? Students will have the answers to all these interesting questions once they have completed the specialization in non-silicate ceramics.