Loughborough University
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Contact damage of ceramics and ceramic nanocomposites

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posted on 2017-05-11, 15:40 authored by James Wade
Herein, we study the contact damage performance of two armour ceramics, alumina and silicon carbide, with varying microstructures and one particle-reinforced ceramic nanocomposite, alumina/silicon carbide, in an attempt to understand the microstructural mechanisms that affect plasticity and cracking under quasi-static and dynamic conditions. Quasi-static contact damage was imitated using Vickers indentation over a varying load regime. Numerical analysis of the indentation size effect, performed using the proportional specimen resistance model, allowed the contributions of plastic deformation and cracking to be separated into two individual values. In all three samples, higher levels of surface energy were found to correlate with increased amounts of cracking per unit area of indentation impression. Analytical modelling of crack initiation during Vickers indentation together with quantitative measurements of surface flaw populations revealed that such an increase in cracking damage was the result of higher densities of larger flaws. The hardness of the monolithic ceramics was found vary based on grain size and porosity levels, a smaller average grain size and lower porosity levels resulting in higher hardness values. In the nanocomposite materials, hardening was found to occur with further additions of silicon carbide nanoparticles. Such an effect has been attributed to the increased dislocation densities, as measured using Cr3+/Al2O3 fluorescence spectroscopy, and the impedance of dislocation movement within the lattice due to the presence of silicon carbide nanoparticles. In order to simulate dynamic contact damage, a low velocity, scaled-down drop-weight test was designed and developed. The dynamic contact damage resistance was determined based on the depth of penetration of a blunt indenter. In the monolithic ceramics, the indenter penetration was found to be shallower in materials of higher hardness. However, the nanocomposite materials displayed an opposing trend, the indenter penetration becoming deeper in the samples of higher hardness. The macro-scale fracture patterns produced during drop-weight impacts were seen to vary based on flaw populations and indenter penetration. In certain microstructures, extensive micro-cracking was also observed.


Loughborough University, Graduate School.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Materials


© James Wade

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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