Ceramic-based building materials have an average service life of over a century and boast excellent resource efficiency at all lifecycle stages. Their durability supports the optimisation of a raw material with many advantages for the construction and housing sectors. The unique properties of ceramics - enhancing energy efficiency and thermal comfort in all climates, resilience to corrosion and versatility - ensure that ceramics will continue to play a fundamental role in the construction and housing sectors.
bricks and roof tiles
The production of bricks and roof tiles is one of the most well-known applications of ceramics. Bricks and roof tiles have been used for centuries because of their proven ability to protect homes from the elements. As an inert product made from natural materials, ceramic tiles and bricks are nontoxic, do not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and provide a healthy indoor climate. Ideal for sustainable housing, bricks are highly resistant to fire and provide insulation from sound and vibrations, electricity, electrostatic and ionising radiation.
Wall and Floor Tiles
Moulded in an endless number of designs and formats, ceramic wall and floor tiles build on 2,000 years of tradition to provide durability, aesthetics and technical solutions in private and public buildings. No longer just a decorative feature inside homes, wall and floor tiles have become indispensable in the provision of hygiene. A new generation of coatings gives tiles the ability to destroy organic matter that settles on their surface and encourages water to slide off, while antibacterial tiles with light-activated antibacterial surface coatings kill hospital bacteria. Ceramic tiles are highly innovative: new forms of ceramic sheeting include fibre-reinforced ceramics, ceramic composites containing conductive layers for heating systems, inner porous layers for thermal and acoustic insulation, and strong, lightweight thin tiles that minimise the tiles' environmental impact.
Vitrified Clay Drainage Pipes
An essential part of municipal infrastructure, vitrified clay pipes transport wastewater safely and effectively away from buildings and roads and on to treatment plants. The raw material used in clay pipe production is a completely natural, inert resource and is available in virtually unlimited reserves. Vitrified clay remains inert even when subjected to extreme temperatures or chemical attack and when it is eventually taken out of service, it is completely recyclable. Currently up to 40% of the raw material used in vitrified clay pipe production can come from recycled clay products.
Favoured by architects and interior designers, ceramic washbasins, toilets, bidets and shower trays are found in homes and buildings the world over. Increasingly innovative designs in the sanitaryware sector mean that ceramics can offer a huge range of products covering nearly every kind of application requested by the market. Ceramics’ light resistance ensures that ceramic sanitaryware does not fade or age, while the glazing process delivers smooth, easy cleaning surfaces and optimal hygienic characteristics. Ceramic sanitaryware has made a huge contribution to the reduction of disease in general and a dramatic reduction in the water consumption of household appliances.
Expanded clay is a well-proven, high quality, efficient and durable lightweight aggregate suitable for a wide range of applications in the construction sector. Expanded clay is various sized granules, each with a hard ceramic shell that surrounds a honeycomb core. It is a sustainable construction material packed with properties that improve the economic, social and environmental performance of a building or infrastructure over its whole lifetime. Expanded clay combines low density with high strength. In addition, the aggregate holds many other important characteristics, and it can be described as an “all-in-one” product, providing a huge range of properties vital for sustainable construction.
Ubiquitous in consumer goods, ceramics present a natural, affordable and long-lasting choice of raw materials whose transformation into an array of consumer goods is achieved with minimal environmental impact. The complex chemistry of many ceramics facilitates their use at high temperatures and their robustness in coping with high speeds during manufacturing processes. Unique properties such as high resistance to abrasion, chemical inertness and dimensional stability ensure that ceramics today have the longer life and lower maintenance costs required to maintain the pace of technological advances.
Tableware and Ornamentalware
Ceramic table and ornamentalware, whether made of porcelain, stoneware or earthenware, have long been part of our culinary rituals. Fired in kilns using abundant natural resources like clay and sand to create these stone-like substances, ceramics have had an astonishing legacy throughout history, providing civilisation with as many varieties as there are cultures and cuisines. From the vases, utensils and carrying vessels of yesteryear to the dinnerware, fine chinaware and hotel porcelain of today, the natural longevity of ceramics ensures that they will continue to evolve with the times and remain the first choice for serving food.
The ability of ceramics to withstand very high temperatures makes them ideal materials for cooking and heating appliances. Ceramic-coated frying pans are a common replacement for other, more controversial non-stick coatings. Ceramic water filters provide safe drinking water to millions of people all over the world. These filters are relied upon in the most demanding situations like war zones and natural disasters.
The ability of ceramics to withstand extremely high temperatures, as well as their durability, strength and non-corrosive properties make them essential for a number of specific applications required in metallurgical processes, glass production and many other key processes across all industries. Gears used for steelmaking or quarrying often include advanced ceramics because their wear, corrosion and thermal resistance offer significantly longer life compared to conventional metal gears.
Abrasives comprise a small but indispensable industry. Much of the complex machinery required by industries, as well as the smooth finishes in countless applications, from diamonds, watches and furniture to kitchen appliances and aircraft, is ground, cut, drilled or polished with abrasives. The European abrasives industry significantly impacts productivity in other industrial and services sectors, including steel, metal processing, automobile manufacturing, space, glass, construction, stone processing, shipbuilding, clean-tech, machine-building, wood processing and defence industries.
Refractories are essential for all high-temperature industrial processes. They play the triple role of providing mechanical strength, protection against corrosion and thermal insulation. The lining of every single reactor, transport vessel or kiln uses a wide range of refractory products including bricks, monolithics and high-temperature insulation wool. The functionalities of technical ceramics and refractories meet critical needs in steel, aluminium, cement, glass, the chemical industry and environmental applications as well as for energy generation, all of which create some of the most corrosive high-temperature environments in industry today. They take advantage of the improved energy efficiency, productivity and metal quality that refractories and technical ceramics bring to handling smelting, melting and molten materials processes.
Porcelain enamel, also known as vitreous enamel, is a high tech coating that shares many characteristics with ceramics. Like ceramic glaze, porcelain enamel is an amorphous, inorganic, nonmetallic solid, fired on a substrate at high temperatures. Ceramic glazes are used to coat clay while porcelain enamel is used to coat metal products such as hot water tanks, appliances (especially cookers), pots, pans and sanitaryware. Porcelain enamel can be produced in a complete color palette, with a continuous variation between glossy and matt, between rough and smooth. Moreover, the enamel coating is unaffected by exposure to weather and light. Some key functional properties are its hygienic nature, superior mechanical resistance to abrasions and scratches and chemical resistance to acid, alkali and water.
Ceramics have become indispensable in cutting-edge technologies. Advanced technical ceramics have unique mechanical, electrical, thermal and biochemical properties that enable their use in a variety of applications in the automotive industry, electronics, medical technology, energy and environment and in general equipment and mechanical engineering.
Medical, laboratory and pharmaceutical instruments as well as ceramic components are used extensively in healthcare, in blanks for the production of crowns, bridges and implants in dentistry and also in implantable medical devices such as pacemakers or hip replacements. Due to their biocompatibility, wear resistance, chemical and corrosion resistance, low allergenic potential, ceramic biomedical implants are the optimum solution for problems arising from disease, infections and other complications, and continue to deliver improved performance in healthcare.
Ceramic substrates, circuit carriers, core materials and many other components are in use throughout the electronics industry. Ceramic heat-sinks provide the perfect climate for high-power electronics, while ceramics’ electrical insulation properties allow them to be used in microchips, circuit boards and circuit breaker technology. Combined with other unique properties, ceramic components are found in a wide range of demanding applications that ensure reliable functioning in aerospace technology, the automotive industry and optoelectronics. Ceramics help keep the world in contact and in motion in the way we have come to expect.
Security and Transport
Applications of technical ceramics in security and defence include bulletproof vests and infrared night vision devices. The high thermal insulation and wear-resistant properties of ceramics explain their use in jet engine turbine blades, disc brakes and bearing components. Contributing to safety and reliability, technical ceramics are found in a vast range of applications.
Many functions in renewable technologies require high-quality products that can only be manufactured with high-quality abrasives, refractories and technical ceramics. The production of the high-purity glass required for solar panels is one example, refractory products used for manufacturing silicon wafers (the semiconductor in crystalline silicon solar panels) is another. Ceramic-based products are also widely used in wind turbines and other solar panel components, such as anti-friction bearings, heat sinks, fuel cells, tensiometers and insulation rings.