A new process has been developed for the production of ceramic composites that utilizes a cold liquid aluminum phosphate matrix precursor.
Most products made in the ceramic industry are fired in a
kiln, with the related expenses in energy and time. A new process has been
developed for the production of composites that utilizes a cold liquid aluminum
phosphate matrix precursor. The new process eliminates the firing requirement
without negatively affecting the quality of the finished product.
Since patent number 2,075,101 by Henry Dreyfus of London (March 30, 1937),
the use of aluminum phosphate has been known as a catalyst for carbon-related
chemical reactions. It enables the hydrogenation of carbon, which provides a
liquification process for turning different forms of carbon into oil. Many
attempts have been made since 1937 to achieve results that cost less to produce
It is desirable to have as
little crystallization as possible in ceramic materials, because it can cause
flaws that lead to reduced strength. The
more amorphous a ceramic material is, the stronger it is in use. When greenware
that contains many crystals is fired, the material melts in place, reducing the
number of crystals and making the material more glass-like.
The amorphous property of the ceramic
material (defined by the lack of crystallization or a low level of
crystallinity) can be determined through nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
spectroscopy or other suitable techniques. A compound that contains less than
60% (and preferably less than 50%) crystalline formations is considered to be amorphous.
Between the initial 1937 patent
and today, aluminum phosphate has been employed in many different and useful
ways, including in high-temperature parts, coatings, catalysts,
photoluminescent powders, and inorganic matrixes. In most instances, the ceramic
product needs to be heated to high temperatures for some time to achieve a
higher level of the amorphous property.
Back when the cost of energy
was low, and the greenhouse we live in was not so warm, the amount of
that went into the atmosphere wasn’t really
considered an issue. Today, however, the cost of producing a ceramic part
increases as the cost of energy increases. Though regulated, natural gas prices
have continued to increase. Propane costs about $5 a gallon, and electricity is
also more expensive to buy and produce. Those in the industry know how much
fuel/energy it takes to fire a load.
Liquid aluminum phosphate (LAP), or meta-aluminum phosphate (MAP), mixes easily with powdered metals and their
oxides, phosphates, carbides, nitrides, sulfates, and other compounds and
materials to create composites through a process that uses no extra external
heating. Instead, the liquid mixture goes to a solid phase in a matter of
minutes at room temperature after mixing is complete.
Aluminum hydroxide, phosphoric
acid and hydrochloric acid are mixed to create a liquid ceramic resin. The
mixture of the acids and base are heated at a boiling point until clear in
appearance to form the reaction that creates the liquid aluminum phosphate resin.
Any water comes directly from the acid and base portions of the precursor
materials, and no organics are used. The liquid material can then be easily
combined with other materials to create cold-formed ceramic composite
Applications and Benefits
The new process could be used in a host of applications. One
potential application is the formation of ceramic composite tubes. With
suitable plumbing connections, these tubes could be used in a high-temperature,
high-pressure setting such as the conversion of any organic compound (from coal
and plastics to plants and manure) into sweet-light crude oil and carbonated
mineral water. The material could also be used to create very hard ceramic
composite cutting tools for the manufacturing industry, or coffee mugs that
won’t chip or break.
Ceramic composites made into
electronic parts could improve the performance and quality of multilayer
electronics. Planned fiberoptic data and address paths can be formed and
embedded in sheets of ceramic composite material made with very thin fabric-type
materials by pushing the ceramic resin through the surface of the woven fiberoptic
fabric to form the sheet. In addition, materials like
, fiberglass, nylon, polypropylene or other
fibrous types formed into sheets that can be precut can also be used.
Electrodes, circuit traces and
the like could be silk-screened in place in such a way that the thickness of the
parts is less than the sheet of the next layer. The patterns can be molded and
then metallized or formed in
piezo-ceramic glass, inductors, capacitors, diodes and resistors embedded in
ceramic material are also possibilities for the future.
The new cold-forming process can
be considered green because it nearly eliminates the need for post firing. It
saves time, money and energy; reduces CO2
will help increase manufacturers’ profit margins.