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MME 467

Ceramics for Advanced Applications

Lecture 21
Deformation Behaviour and
Strength of Ceramic Materials
Ref: Kingery, Introduction to Ceramics, Ch14, John Wiley & Sons, 1991
Richerson, Modern Ceramic Engineering, Dekker, 1992
Topics to discuss....

1. The plastic deformation

2. Deformation behaviour in ceramics
3. Strength of ceramics
4. Processing and surface flaws
4. Effects of flaws on strength of ceramics
The plastic deformation

 Irreversible deformation of materials

The remains of deformation after unloading in a tensile or compression test

 Mechanisms responsible for plastic deformation

Dislocation motion
Vacancy motion
Viscous flow (in amorphous materials)

 For polycrystalline or multiphase materials

Deformation occurs within grains (transgranular) or along the grain boundaries
 In metals, dislocation
motion is intrinsically easy
Deformation can occur even at room
temperature by dislocation motion

 For ceramics, high shear stress

required for dislocation motion.
 With covalent ceramics
dislocation motion is difficult due to the
necessity to break and reform the
strong bonds
 With ionic ceramics
difficulty in dislocation motion is related
to the distribution of charges in the
crystal structure

 Thus, most failure in ceramics

occurs by the extension of flaws. Motion of dislocation in materials (Ashby)
 Plastic deformation at room temperature involves slip between
the planes of atoms under the influences of an applied stress.
Theoretical stress needed to cause slipping of one complete plane with respect to the
adjacent plane is about E/15.

 The presence of dislocation and the associated residual stress

allows slip to occur along atom planes at a fraction of E/15 value
that would be required in the absence of dislocations.
For example, 99.97% purity nickel (for which E= 214 GPa) begins to plastically deform at room
temperature at about 110 MPa

 A single dislocation does not result in significant plastic

stress within a material
Under an applied stress, dislocations can form and multiply
Typical deformed metals may contain millions of dislocation per cubic centimetre

 Actual slip occurs in bands along preferred crystal planes

Preferred planes for HCP structures is (0001), while several families of slip planes exists
for cubic close packed structures: {111}, {100}, and {100}
Ways of inhibiting dislocation motion

1. forming solute solution

2. including inclusions or precipitates in the structure

3. increasing grain boundaries

4. increasing work hardening

Deformation behaviour in ceramics

 Ductile behaviour has been observed in some single-crystal

ceramics at room temperature and in some polycrystalline
ceramics at elevated temperature.

 Criteria for plastic deformation in ceramics are the same

as for metals:
1. presence of dislocations
2. mechanism of generating new dislocations under an applied stress
3. path along which dislocation can move at a stress lower than the fracture strength
of the ceramics.
Deformation in single crystal ceramics

 Rocksalt [NaCl, KCl, KBr, LiF, MgO] and fluorite [CaF2, UO2]
cubic structures show some degrees of deformation

 Rocksalt structure:
Slip occurs along {110} planes in [110] directions
The motion involved a minimum
distance of slip to restore the original
structural arrangement
Ions of similar polarity remain at
maximum distance from each other,
in order to avoid having to overcome
a large repulsion energy barrier
(a) (b)
 Thus, plastic deformation
Fig. 4: Slip for crystals with rocksalt structure
will not occur unless In the <110> direction on (a) {110} plane, (b) {100} plane.
1. electrostatic balance is retained {110}<110> glide is preferred.
2. structural geometry is not altered
3. cation-anion ratio is maintained
Fig.5: Stress-strain curve for KBr and MgO Fig.6: Effect of solute concentration on stress-
single crystals tested in bending strain curve of MgO-NiO system
 Limited plastic deformation through dislocation motion can
also occur in more complex, less symmetrical single crystals
 Yield stress is much higher
 mechanism of slip is more complex and restrictive

 Materials fracture in brittle manner with no plastic deformation

at low temperatures.

 Slip only occurs at high temperatures where additional

dislocation motions become energetically possible.
Fig. 9: Stress-strain diagrams of single crystal Al2O3
At various temperatures and strain rates

 Yield stress is less at higher temperatures and at low strain rates

Deformation in polycrystalline ceramics

 Polycrystalline materials are generally

found to be harder than those having
single crystals
Generally fractures in brittle mode at room temperatures

 Random grain orientations with respect

to applied stress causes differences in
alignment of the slip lines makes
slipping more complex.
Slip lines in deformed
polycrystalline Copper

 For plastic deformation to occur, five independent

slip systems must be present in the crystal structure
At room temperature, most ceramics have three or less slip systems.

 A few ceramics have five slip systems at high temperatures

NaCl, LiF, MgO, NaF, TiC, UC, diamond, CaF2, UO2, and MgAl2O4
Table 1: Primary and secondary slip systems of ceramics

No. of associated Temperature for

Crystal Slip systems independent slip systems appreciable slip (°C )
Material structure Primary Secondary Primary Secondary Primary Secondary

Al2O3 Hexagonal {0001}<1120> Several 2 1200

BeO Hexagonal {0001}<1120> Several 2 1000
MgO Cubic [NaCl] {110}<110> {001}<110> 2 3 0 1700
MgO.Al2O3 Cubic [Spinel] {111}<110> 5 1650
b-SiC Cubic [ZnS] {111}<110> 5 >2000
b-Si3N4 Hexagonal {1010}<0001> 2 >1800
TiC Cubic [NaCl] {111}<110> 5 900
UO2 Cubic [CaF2] {001}<110> {110}<110> 3 2 700 1200
ZrB2 Hexagonal {0001}<1120> 2 2100
Summary of ceramics deformation

 Some single crystals have substantial plastic deformation

prior fracture.

 Most single crystals and all polycrystalline ceramics

fracture in a brittle mode with no plastic deformation.

 The behaviour is determined by a competition between

creation/ movement of dislocations and stress concentration
at microstructural defects.
 If applied stress first reaches the yield stress for dislocation motion, plastic
deformation will occur.
 If the local stress first reaches the critical fracture stress at a microstructural defect
(such as pore, crack, or inclusion) in the material, brittle fracture will occur.
Strength of ceramics

 Ceramics, at room temperature, have a very large lattice


Eg ½
 Estimation of theoretical strength:
(required to break atomic bond and pull a structure sth = a0
apart under tensile loading)
g = fracture surface energy
a0 = interatomic spacing

 Stress required to move dislocations is a large fraction of

modulus E, typically around E/30 (compared to E/1000 or less
for softer metals).
so ceramics have yield strength, sy  5 GPa.

 The value is so high that, during design with ceramic materials,

plastic collapse of component is never considered.
fracture always intervene first.
 The penalty of having a large lattice resistance in
ceramics is brittleness.
 this results a low fracture toughness, KIC , i.e., the amount of energy
absorbed during fracture (even at the crack tip) is low

 Thus, ceramics have fracture toughness, KIC, values

roughly 1/5th of those good, ductile metals.

Table 2: Comparison of theoretical strength and actual strength

Estimated Measured strength of
theoretical strength of polycrystalline
Material E, GPa strength, GPa fibers, GPa specimen, GPa
Al2O3 380 38 16 0.40
SiC 440 44 21 0.70

So, why do ceramics have such low values

of strength and fracture toughness ?
Processing and surface flaws

 Ceramic materials always

have a reduced strength and
fracture toughness, because
they almost always contains
internal or surface cracks
and other flaws.

Microstructure of typical ceramic

showing cracks and other flaws
 Some sources of flaws:
 Manufacturing process (e.g., pores during sintering, hairline cracks during machining, etc.)
 Thermal stress during cooling or thermal loading (internal cracks)
 Corrosion (often by water) or abrasion (by dust) at the surface
 During loading (internal/surface cracks)
Effects of flaws on strength

 Flaws (crack, pore, inclusion) act as stress concentrator

and reduce mechanical properties.

 Stress concentration at the sm c ½

tip of an elliptical crack in a
ss = 2
non-ductile material: r
Example: RBSN (Reaction-bonded Si3N4) sm = maximum stress at crack tip
ss = applied stress
r = a0  2 Å = 2x10-8 m;
2c = crack length
c = 170 mm = 170x10-6 m r = radius of crack tip
Stress concentration factor (sm/ss) = 184.39

 Thus even a small flaw in ceramics is extremely critical !!

 The design strength of ceramics is determined by:
 the fracture toughness of material, KIC, and
 the length of the largest microcrack it contains, 2am

sTS = sTS = tensile strength
 p am
Engineering ceramics
sTS  200 MPa Cement and concrete
KIC  2 MPa m1/2
Pottery, brick, stone
sTS  2 MPa
2am  60 mm Full of cracks and voids
( 5-20% porosity) This indicates the presence of at least
About same size of one crack a cm or more in length
original particles 2am  Several mm long

 Ways of improving strength of ceramics materials:

 decreasing 2am by careful quality control, and
 increasing the fracture toughness of material, KIC, or, making ceramic into composite
Effect of Pore on Stiffness

The magnitude of the

modulus of elasticity E
decreases with volume
fraction porosity P :

E = E0 (1 - 1.9P + 0.9P2)

where E0 is the modulus

of elasticity with no
The flexural strength
Effect of Porosity on Strength decreases exponentially
with volume fraction
porosity P as:

sfs = s0 exp(-nP)
where s0 is the flexural
strength with no porosity,
and n is a material
constant, depends on
distribution and
morphology of pore

• Pores reduce the cross-

sectional area across
which a load is applied.
• Also act as stress
• 10 vol.% porosity can
decrease the flexural
strength by 50%!
Severity of strength reduction by porosity depends on:
1. shape of pore
2. presence of crack/grain boundary adjacent to a pore
3. distance between pores and between pore and surface
4. size and shape of inclusion
5. difference in elastic moduli and coefficients of thermal expansion
between inclusion and matrix
Pore shape effect
 Spherical pores are less effective than sharp crack as stress
 Most pores in ceramics are highly irregular in shape
 Models to relate flaw size to fracture stress assume pores as
elliptical crack

Pore-crack combination effect

 Common case is intersection of pores with grain boundaries
 If the pore is much larger than grain
Edge of pore determines the critical flaw size
 If pore and grains are equal
Crack generates along the boundary and the effective flaw size will be larger than the pore
Internal pores

 Shape and position of pore with respect to surface affects strength

 If the pore is close to the surface,

the following Ligament Theory applies:
 Breaking the bridge/ligament of material separating it from the surface will result a
critical flaw with dimension equals pore size plus bridge thickness
 Strength value will be between those of materials having pores alone and having
pores intersecting the surface
 Internal pores within about half the radius of pores from the surface follow this theory,
and the resulting calculated strength is within 10% of the measured value
Pore clusters

 When a group of pores are close together, the breaking of

bridging materials between them produces a much larger flaw
Strength reduces considerably
 Pores separated by less than one pore radius will link.
 Should be avoided during forming:
Exaggerated grain growth

 Occurs through contaminations of ceramic powders

 Degree of reduction of strength by an inclusion depends on:

 Thermal and elastic properties of inclusion compared to the matrix material

 Difference in thermal expansion, a

 Results cracks adjacent to the inclusion during cooling
 Residual stresses generated are directly proportional to (am - ai) and ∆T

 Difference in elastic modulus

 Results crack when a load is applied
 Worst case scenario:
 Inclusions with low coefficient of thermal expansion and low elastic modulus
compared to the matrix
 Effective flaw size is larger than the visible inclusion size, being equivalent to
inclusion plus length of adjacent crack

 Inclusions having higher expansion and modulus:

 Have less effect on strength
 Produces circumferential cracks, rather than radial crack
 Effective flaw size is like a flat elliptical crack whose size is equivalent to the
elliptical dimensions of the inclusion
Surface flaws

 Resulted due to
 High-temperature grooving
 Post-fabrication operations
 Accidental damage during service

 Flaws propagated through a grain

 Along cleavage planes
 Along grain boundaries

 Cracks generally not extended beyond a grain before arresting

at the grain boundary
 Fracture strength increases as grain size decreased (Griffith criterion)
Grain size

 Strength is inversely proportional to

grains size.
 Flaw size decreases as grain size is decreased
 Flaws formed at the grain boundary,
propagates up to about one grain diameter

 For very fine-grained ceramics

 Fracture occurs from pre-existing
process/surface flaws
 Strength becomes relatively grain size
Compressive surface residual stresses

 Use of a compressive surface layer

 compressive surface residual stress inhibits failure from surface flaw, since this
stress has to be overcome before crack propagation
 strengthen ceramic materials, increases shock resistance and contact damage

 Basic principle:
To generate a surface layer with a higher volume than the original matrix

 Common methods:
1. Incorporating an outer layer with lower coefficient of thermal expansion
(glaze technology, tempering in glass)
2. Using transformation stresses (zirconia ceramics)
3. Physically stuffing outer layer with ions/atoms (ion implantation)
4. Ion exchanging (smaller ions for larger ions)
 Due to this outer compressive layer, a tensile stress is developed
at the inside of material
 If any flaw propagates through the compressive layer, material fails more easily
than the materials without a compressive layer.
 E.g., Tempered glass for car wind shield (release of residual stresses cause the
glass to shatter)
Temperature / atmosphere

 Depend on whether or not the atmosphere heals or aggravates

pre-existing surface flaws

 Corrosive atmosphere at high temperature

1. forms protective (usually oxide) layer on the surface;
blunts and partially heals the flaws; improves strength
2. attacks the surface;
forms pits, or simply etching the surface away; strength decreases

 Ceramics containing glassy grain boundary phases

 Softening of phase occurs; strength decreases.