Synthesis and processing of nanostructured alumina ceramics
2013-11-05T09:04:21Z (GMT) by
The term Nanoceramics is well known in the ceramic field for at least two decades. In this project a detailed study was performed on the synthesis of α-alumina nanopowders. High solids content nanoalumina suspensions were prepared and used to form green bodies using both wet and dry forming routes. The green bodies were then sintered using both conventional single and two-step sintering approaches. Synthesis: Two different synthesis methods, viz. precipitation and hydrothermal treatment, were used to synthesize fine α-alumina powders from aluminium chloride, ammonia solution and TEAH (Tetraethyl ammonium hydroxide). XRD, TEM and FEG-SEM were used to characterise the powders produced. The presence of commercial α-alumina powder as seed particles did not affect the transformation to α-alumina phase during the hydrothermal treatment at 220˚C in either basic or acidic environments. The results obtained from the precipitation route showed that the combined effect of adding α-alumina seeds and surfactants to the precursor solution could lower the transformation temperature of α-alumina from about 1200˚C for unseeded samples to 800˚C, as well as reducing the level of agglomeration in the alumina powders. The difference in transformation temperature mainly resulted from the nucleation process by the α-alumina seeds, which enhanced the θ → α transformation kinetics. The lower level of agglomeration present in the final powders could be due to the surface modifying role of the surfactants preventing the particles from growing together during the synthesis process. By introducing a further high-temperature step for a very short duration (1 minute) to the low-temperature heat treatment route (800˚C/12 h), the unseeded sample with added surfactant transformed into pure α-alumina phase. The newly-added step was shown to be an in-situ seeding step, followed by a conventional nucleation and growth process. The best final powder was compared with a commercial α-alumina nanopowder. Processing of alumina ceramics: The effect of low-molecular weight ammonium dispersants including Dispex-A40, Darvan-C and Dolapix-CE64, on high solids content nanoalumina suspensions was investigated. The nanosuspension prepared using the most suitable dispersant, Dolapix-CE64, was slip cast into ~53% dense, very homogeneous green bodies. This nanosuspension was also spray freeze dried into crushable granules using Freon as a foaming agent. Green compacts with density of ~53.5% were then formed by dry pressing the 2 vol% Freon-added spray freeze dried granules at 40 MPa. Both slip cast and die pressed green bodies were sintered using conventional single-step and two-step routes followed by characterising the density and grain size measurement of final dense compacts. The results have been compared with that of a submicron alumina ceramic prepared using a commercial α-alumina suspension. Highly dense alumina with an average grain size of ~0.6 μm was fabricated by means of spark plasma sintering at 1200˚C. The application of 500 MPa allowed achieving almost fully dense alumina at temperature as low as 1200˚C for 30 minutes with no significant grain growth.