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Technical Ceramics: Materials for the latest generation

High-performance ceramics drive the world of the automobile

One of the most fascinating materials of our age: high-performance ceramics. All and every day, around the clock, CeramTec high-performance ceramics are at work, whether it be as part of a car, in a machine or an appliance, or even in the human body. Ceramic products put their special mechanical, electrical, thermal or bio-chemical properties to use often unseen by the user, but most often the role they play is an important or even decisive one. Due to their specific qualities, high-performance ceramics are used in a very wide range of applications and fill the gap in areas where other materials such as metals or plastics fail.

The automotive industry benefits in many respects from the fascinating properties of ceramic materials. The breathtaking pace of technical progress and extreme requirements for longevity and stress resistance demand materials with extraordinary properties. Whether it be in the engine field, in vehicle electronics, in ultra-modern vehicle lighting or specialist fields such as armor-plating of vehicles: The demand is for low weight with exceptional hardness and wear-resistance, heat resistance and high corrosion-proofing, dimensional stability with the highest endurance, thermal conductivity and thermal or electrical insulation.

At the IAA (International Automobile Exhibition) from the 11th to 23rd of September CeramTec AG is showing at stand H 21 in hall 4.1 a wide variety of products which are either already found in today's automobiles or in their production.

The most recent development from CeramTec is CeramCool®, a ceramic heat-sink for high-power LEDs. Ceramic heat-sinks open up new possibilities for the thermal management of innovative LED-based lighting systems. With the simplified and thereby miniaturized construction of these LED systems, completely new types of design variant become available to developers.

CeramTape ceramic films used as electrical insulators form the basis of further developments and miniaturization of hybrid devices in vehicle electronics. The robustness of ceramic circuit substrates in the face of extreme conditions is only now making it possible to install the growing number of electronic control systems directly on to the engine, steering and transmission.

With other ceramic components it is the thermal insulation properties which take center stage. These are unique in providing adequate protection of sensitive components from the heat generated by a xenon lamp. Ceramic insulation components are also often found in lambda probes, where they have to withstand hot exhaust gases.

Completely new fields of application have been opened up by piezo ceramics. Piezo ceramic components are electromechanical transducers: They can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy and vice-versa. As signal generators and simultaneously signal receivers, piezo ceramic discs form the heart of distance sensors. Piezo ceramic rings act as signal pickups in knock sensors, and systems based on current designs are only possible because of them.

The exotic species in the range of ceramic materials are represented by metal matrix composite preforms. In automobile construction the spectrum of applications for light-metal components grows ever broader. At the same time however the punishing levels of stress these components are exposed to are also increasing. In composite materials made from metal and ceramics, a metallic substrate material is reinforced with ceramic hardened particles. The low weight of the metal can thus be combined with the resistance of ceramics under tribological, mechanical and thermal loads. Highly porous preforms are infiltrated by the molten light metal during the casting process. This technology is used for locally reinforcing the cylinder sleeves in the engine block of the Porsche Boxster and 911.

In the automobile construction industry, components which are subject to high levels of wear attract particular attention. In a range of applications ceramicbearings and seal rings are chosen for their properties which include high wear resistance, corrosion-proofing, thermal loading capacity and thermal shock resistance. Some examples of these are fuel and cooling-water pumps or exhaust gas valves, where ceramics ensure optimal synergy between all the components.

While not directly built into the automobile, a multitude of ceramics products are responsible for higher productivity and process reliability in production.

50 years ago cutting materials from SPK High-performance Ceramics and associated tool supports hailed the start of a new era in the turning, milling and drilling of cast-iron and steel materials. This high performance manufacturing finds applications in automobile construction such as in turning brake discs and milling engine blocks.

Very complex cast components have only become possible due to ceramic foundry cores, which generate cavities in the component based on the lost mold technique. Ceramic foundry cores, in contrast to conventional sand-casting cores, can be completely flushed out after the solidification of the smelt without leaving a residue. This is a crucial quality feature in casting pistons and reduces the rejection rate substantially.

In the welding process for chassis construction, weld centering pins and gas nozzles made from ceramics are increasingly being used. These are particularly effective in increasing tool lifetimes.

About CeramTec AG: As well as serving the automotive industry, CeramTec AG is a leading international provider of Engineering Ceramics with 3,100 employees and an annual turnover of 320 million Euros, supplying innovative products to the medical technology, electronics, device and machine construction and chemicals industries worldwide. From customized single-unit manufacturing to mass production runs of millions of units, CeramTec supplies the highest quality and is a leader in the design of new solutions for ever broader and demanding application areas – CeramTec stands for "Innovative Ceramic Engineering".

Further information on CeramTec automotive products can be obtained directly from IAA stand H 21 in hall 4.1, or from the Public Relations Department of CeramTec AG, Jörg Kochendörfer, Telephone +49 7153 611 416, j.kochendoerfer@ceramtec.de, www.ceramtec.com