Zirconia-matrix composites reinforced with metal
The aim of this study was to investigate a zirconia-matrix reinforced with metal powder (chromium, iron and stainless steel (AISI 316)) including processing, characterisation, and measurements of their properties (mechanical, thermal and electrical). Zirconia stabilised with 5.4 wt% Y₂0₃ (3 mol%) as the matrix was first studied and followed by an investigation of the effects of metal reinforcement on zirconia-matrix composites. Monolithic zirconia was pressureless sintered in air and argon to observe the effect of sintering atmosphere, while the composites were pressureless sintered in argon to avoid oxidation. Sintering was carried out at various temperatures for 1 hour and 1450°C was chosen to get almost fully dense samples. The density of the fired samples was measured using a mercury balance method and the densification behaviour was analysed using TMA (Thermo-mechanical Analysis). The TMA was also used to measure the coefficient of thermal expansion. In addition, thermal analysis using DTA and TGA was performed to observe reactions and phase transformations. Moreover, optical microscopy and SEM were used to observe the microstructures, XRD was used for phase identification, and mechanical properties including Vickers hardness, fracture toughness and bending strength were measured. The effect of thermal expansion mismatch on thermal stresses was also analysed and discussed. Finally, thermal diffusivity at room temperature and as a function of temperature was measured using a laser flash method, and to complete the study, electrical conductivity at room temperature was also measured. The investigation of monolithic zirconia showed that there was no significant effect of air and argon atmosphere during sintering on density, densification behaviour, microstructures, and properties (mechanical and thermal). Furthermore, the results were in good agreement with that reported by previous researchers. However, the presence of metal in the composites influenced the sintering behaviour and the densification process depends on the metal stability, reactivity, impurity, particle size, and volume fraction. Iron reacted with yttria (zirconia stabiliser), melted and reduced the densification temperature of monolithic zirconia, while chromium and AISI 316 did not significantly affect the densification temperature and did not react with either zirconia or yttria. AISI 316 melted during fabrication. Moreover, all of the metal reinforcements reduced the final shrinkage of monolithic zirconia. In terms of properties, the composites showed an increase in fracture toughness, and a reduction in Vickers hardness and strength with increasing reinforcement content. In addition, the thermal diffusivity of the composites showed an increase with reinforcement content for the zirconia/chromium and zirconia/iron composites, but not for the zirconia/AISI 316 composites due to intrinsic mircocracking. Furthermore, all the composites became electrically conductive with 20 vol% or more of reinforcement. It has been concluded that of those composites the zirconia/chromium system may be considered as having the best combination of properties and although further development is needed for such composites to be used in real applications in structural engineering, the materials may be developed based on these findings. In addition, these findings may be used in development of ceramic/metal joining as composite interlayers are frequently used.