A ceramic is an inorganic, non metallic, solid material comprising of metal, non metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds.
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The most important ceramic materials are pottery, bricks and tiles, cements and glass. A composite material of ceramic and metal is known as cermet.
Other ceramic materials, generally requiring greater purity in their make-up than those above, include forms of several chemical compounds, including:
Silicon carbide is used as a susceptor in microwave furnaces, as a commonly used abrasive, and as a refractory material.
Zinc oxide, which is a semi-conductor, is used in the construction of varistors.
Zirconium dioxide (zirconia) in pure form undergoes many phase changes between room temperature and practical sintering temperatures, and can be chemically “stabilised” in several different forms. Its high oxygen ion conductivity enables it to be suitable for use in fuel cells and automotive oxygen sensors.
Partially stabilised zirconia is much less brittle than other ceramics and is used for metal forming tools, valves and liners, abrasive slurries, and kitchen knives and bearings that are subject to severe abrasion.