Added: 26.11.2009 14:00
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Cars and houses made of Ceramics

In the future it may be possible to replace metal with ceramics in various structures. This would help make the structures lighter and more energy efficient

For years, scientists have been trying to design new materials based on tough natural materials like nacre and bone. In the future it may be possible to manufacture similar materials in laboratories and replace metal with this new ceramics in various structures. This would help make the structures lighter and more energy efficient, thus saving natural resources.

Some natural materials combine strength with toughness unlike any known metal. In particular, they've looked to the porous but resilient material called nacre that lines abalone shells. Nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, combines plates of strong but brittle calcium carbonate with a soft protein glue in a brick-and-mortar structure that's 3,000 times tougher than either constituent.

In recent studies, researchers at CalTech (Berkeley) have developed a method for manufacturing nacre-like materials in the lab. These new materials have mechanical properties similar to metal alloys and are the toughest ceramics ever made. These nacre-like ceramics are in their early stages of development, but the Berkeley researchers say the materials should make possible applications of ceramics that have seemed unattainable.

The new method could lead the way to ceramic structural materials for energy-efficient buildings and lightweight but resilient automobile frames. In buildings, the tough ceramics, which are good insulators, could do double duty as structural elements in energy-efficient buildings.

References:

Bourzac, Katherine MIT Technology Review, December 4, 2008. http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21767/?a=f

Opportunity: Save in fuel costs

Threat: Behaviour of new materials in for example, car crashes, might differ from previously used materials

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Comments

I just wonder how energy efficient is the production and what sort of raw material are they using. As for calssical china ceramics (which of course is obviosly not the same as this one) Kaolin is used which is a resource that need to be exploited open pit mines.