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Nature. 2000 Mar 9;404(6774):168-71.

Sintering dense nanocrystalline ceramics without final-stage grain growth

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  • 1Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-6272, USA.


Sintering is the process whereby interparticle pores in a granular material are eliminated by atomic diffusion driven by capillary forces. It is the preferred manufacturing method for industrial ceramics. The observation of Burke and Coble that certain crystalline granular solids could gain full density and translucency by solid-state sintering was an important milestone for modern technical ceramics. But these final-stage sintering processes are always accompanied by rapid grain growth, because the capillary driving forces for sintering (involving surfaces) and grain growth (involving grain boundaries) are comparable in magnitude, both being proportional to the reciprocal grain size. This has greatly hampered efforts to produce dense materials with nanometre-scale structure (grain size less than 100 nm), leading many researchers to resort to the 'brute force' approach of high-pressure consolidation at elevated temperatures. Here we show that fully dense cubic Y2O3 (melting point, 2,439 degrees C) with a grain size of 60 nm can be prepared by a simple two-step sintering method, at temperatures of about 1,000 degrees C without applied pressure. The suppression of the final-stage grain growth is achieved by exploiting the difference in kinetics between grain-boundary diffusion and grain-boundary migration. Such a process should facilitate the cost-effective preparation of other nanocrystalline materials for practical applications.

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