Five manufacturers that produce ceramic powders or make components from silicon nitride materials, an instrument company and a federal laboratory have committed to join an industry/ government effort to improve the processing of ceramic powders and slurries. The cooperative research and development program is sponsored by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Participants in the intelligent processing of ceramic powders and slurries consortium include Cercom Inc. (Vista, Calif.), Coors Ceramics Co. (Golden, Colo.), Eaton Corp. (Southfield, Mich.), Kerr-McGee Corp. (Oklahoma City, Okla.), St. Gobain/Norton Industrial Ceramics Co. (Northboro, Mass.) and an instrument manufacturer, Matec Applied Sciences Inc. (Hopkinton, Mass.). The Metals and Ceramics Division of the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a participating partner.
The goal of the program is to develop the non-destructive evaluation tools that industry needs for the intelligent processing of ceramic powders and slurries. This will be accomplished by generating information on powder and slurry behavior during processing, and by producing models and sensor techniques for on-line measurements and process controls during the manufacture of materials. A long-term goal of the consortium is to develop process models for various sub-processes involved in the production of ceramic powders.
Tom Yolken, chief of NIST's Office of Intelligent Processing of Materials, cites two NIST research projects in ceramic powder characterization and processing that have reached the stage where they are of interest to industry. These are: nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging for determining water and binder distributions in green ceramics to a resolution of 76 microns, and an electroacoustic technique to analyze the surface chemical behavior of silicon nitride particles in slurries with various sintering aids and surface active agents.
Yolken says the consortium will focus on a few specific issues that will provide a basic understanding of powder and slurry behavior that can guide producers and are suitable for adaption to on-line measurement and process control.
He adds that the development of measurement techniques, standards and data to monitor the critical parameters-- microstructures and chemistry--in powders and slurries will help industry exploit new markets by producing quality products, reliably and efficiently, at lower costs.
Participation by industry in the three-year program requires an annual contribution of $10,000 to cover administrative costs (not required for university participants) and in-kind research contributions to the program.
For information on the NIST consortium on the intelligent processing of ceramic powders and slurries, contact Subhas G. Malghan, program manager, A256 Materials Building, NIST, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-0001, (301) 975-6101.
The consortium on the intelligent processing of ceramic powders and slurries is an example of several interdisciplinary research efforts NIST conducts with industry. NIST scientists and engineers are working with industry on the castings of aerospace alloys and with other consortia on polymer processing, polymer blends, data for ceramic machining and the development of advanced process control systems for steelmaking.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.