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Other applications of ceramics

Knife blades: the blade of a ceramic knife will stay sharp for much longer than that of a steel knife, although it is more brittle and can be snapped by dropping it on a hard surface. Vehicle ceramic brake discs are resistant to abrasion at high temperatures. Advanced composite ceramic and metal matrices have been designed for most modern armoured fighting vehicles because they offer superior penetrating resistance against shaped charges such as high explosive antitank (HEAT) rounds and kinetic energy penetrators. Ceramics such as alumina and boron carbide have been used in ballistic armored vests to repel large-caliber rifle fire. Such plates are known commonly as small arms protective inserts (SAPIs). Similar material is used to protect cockpits of some military airplanes, because of the low weight of the material. Ceramic balls can be used to replace steel in ball bearings. Their higher hardness means they are much less susceptible to wear and can offer more than triple lifetimes. They also deform less under load, meaning they have less contact with the bearing retainer walls and can roll faster. In very high speed applications, heat from friction during rolling can cause problems for metal bearings, which are reduced by the use of ceramics. Ceramics are also more chemically resistant and can be used in wet environments where steel bearings would rust. In some cases, their electricity-insulating properties may also be valuable in bearings. The two major drawbacks to using ceramics are a significantly higher cost and susceptibility to damage under shock loads. In the early 1980s, Toyota researched production of an adiabatic engine using ceramic components in the hot gas area. The ceramics would have allowed temperatures of over 3000°F (1650°C). The expected advantages would have lighter materials, no or reduced cooling system, and hence a major weight reduction. The expected increase of fuel efficiency of the engine (caused by the higher temperature, as shown by Carnot's theorem) could not be verified experimentally; it was found that the heat transfer on the hot ceramic cylinder walls is higher than the transfer to a cooler metal wall. Obviously the cooler gas film on the metal surface works as a thermal insulator. Thus, despite all of these desirable properties, such engine have not succeeded in production because of costs for the ceramic components and the limited advantages. (Small imperfections in the ceramic material with its low fracture toughness lead to cracks, which can lead to potentially dangerous equipment failure.) Such engines are possible in laboratory settings, but mass production is not feasible with current technology.[citation needed] Work is being done in developing ceramic parts for gas turbine engines. Currently, even blades made of advanced metal alloys used in the engines' hot section require cooling and careful limiting of operating temperatures. Turbine engines made with ceramics could operate more efficiently, giving aircraft greater range and payload for a set amount of fuel. Recent advances have been made in ceramics which include bioceramics, such as dental implants and synthetic bones. Hydroxyapatite, the natural mineral component of bone, has been made synthetically from a number of biological and chemical sources and can be formed into ceramic materials. Orthopedic implants coated with these materials bond readily to bone and other tissues in the body without rejection or inflammatory reactions so are of great interest for gene delivery and tissue engineering scaffolds. Most hydroxyapatite ceramics are very porous and lack mechanical strength, and are used to coat metal orthopedic devices to aid in forming a bond to bone or as bone fillers. They are also used as fillers for orthopedic plastic screws to aid in reducing the inflammation and increase absorption of these plastic materials. Work is being done to make strong, fully dense nano crystalline hydroxyapatite ceramic materials for orthopedic weight bearing devices, replacing foreign metal and plastic orthopedic materials with a synthetic, but naturally occurring, bone mineral. Ultimately, these ceramic materials may be used as bone replacements or with the incorporation of protein collagens, synthetic bones. High-tech ceramic is used in watchmaking for producing watch cases. The material is valued by watchmakers for its light weight, scratch resistance, durability and smooth touch. IWC is one of the brands that initiated the use of ceramic in watchmaking. The case of the IWC 2007 Top Gun edition of the Pilot's Watch double chronograph is crafted in black ceramic.

 
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