Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Materials research is an interdisciplinary field in which engineers and physical scientists work together. Since the major binary oxides, nitrides, and carbides, which are currently used as high-performance ceramics, were discovered in the last century, the role of chemistry in the development of materials has become barely noticeable. This has changed only in the recent past as, for example, purity and defined morphology of starting powders were recognized as crucial parameters for enhancing the reliability of ceramic workpieces. While the application of chemical methods led to gradual-though significant-improvements, the true potential of chemistry lies rather in the exploitation of new chemical systems and the development of new preparative routes to already known materials. Such an approach is the preparation of ceramics from molecular or polymeric precursors. Herein we survey the most important contributions to those preparative routes starting from the pioneering work in the 1960s and the 1970s; a certain emphasis is placed on the concepts that we have applied to the preparation of multinary, nonoxide materials and amorphous inorganic networks. The name “amorphous high-performance ceramics” is in fact a contradiction in terms. Such materials are thermodynamically unstable with respect to the transformation or decomposition to crystalline phases, thus excluding their application in sensitive areas at high temperatures. However, the selection of element combinations for which the binding energies are derived from strong, local covalent bonds and which are therefore less dependent on a long-range crystalline order, can yield amorphous materials of remarkable thermal and mechanical durability. This is exemplified by novel quaternary ceramics in the Si/B/N/C system, for which an efficient synthesis, starting from raw materials suitable for industrial production, has been developed. For instance, a material of the composition SiBN3C remains amorphous up to 1900°C, which is unique, and, with respect to oxidation, is the most stable nonoxide ceramic known to date. Another advantage of this in several respects unsurpassed material is the simple way, in which the viscosity of the polymeric precursors can be adjusted to various methods of shaping. So far infiltrations and coatings have been realized. Most developed is the preparation of fibers, which in terms of their performance characteristics are significantly better than those currently available.
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