The incorporation of technical ceramic materials into various elements of the clean technology industry has continued to rise over the past several years. While certain clean technology products, such as solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems, are entirely composed of technical ceramics, other areas within this industry have found that replacing single critical components, such as insulation materials, with ceramics is equally beneficial.
Advantages of Technical Ceramics
Advanced technical ceramics provide a wide range of benefits which have been well established within all levels of industrial production methods and advanced technology applications. Some of the most recent applications of technical ceramics can be found in advanced nuclear technologies used to control air pollution levels, biofuels, carbon sequestration, coal gasification, environmental remediation, green building technologies, high capacity energy storage, solar technology and much more.
Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs)
Since its initial introduction into the market in 2002, SOFCs have demonstrated a promising potential as efficient and pollutant-free energy sources. The consumption of O2 and fuel, which is in the form of H2 or hydrocarbons, results in the occurrence of both oxidation and reduction reactions on either side of the membrane. This chemical energy is then converted into electrical energy as a result of the rapid ionic conduction of either oxygen (O2) or protons across the solid oxide membrane, which allows for a charge transport to arise. SOFCs utilize oxide-ion conducting ceramic materials as the electrolyte in order to ensure that electrons are released and electricity is produced.
SOFCs are unique in that they exhibit high ionic conductivity, density and electrical resistance, all the while also maintaining their stability when exposed to high operating temperatures of up to 500 °C. The high efficiency of SOFCs significantly reduces the amount of H2 or hydrocarbon fuel, thereby ultimately reducing the potential carbon dioxide (CO2) or nitric oxide (NOx) emissions associated with this energy option. In fact, SOFCs have been shown to release the lowest amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as compared to all other non-renewable energy sources. When combined with fuel cell technology, the efficiency of SOFCs can increase by as much as 80%.
Ceramics in Green Building Design
Since traditional construction methods have been associated with causing adverse impacts to the environment in terms of increase CO2 and GHG emissions, construction companies have turned to green building technologies to save on resources and reduce their environmental impact.
For example, ceramic tile, which is typically comprised of all-natural ingredients including clay, sand, feldspar, quartz and water, is often incorporated into green building projects. In addition to eliminating the need to add any chemicals or volatile compounds into ceramic tile mixtures, many companies will also use recycled material and old ceramic tiles to create new ceramic tiles.
Technical Ceramics and Solar Energy
As the demand for solar energy continues to rise, researchers in this area are becoming increasingly interested in reducing the cost associated with generating and storing solar power. Recently, a team of researchers from Purdue University have developed a novel ceramic-metal composite of zirconium carbide and tungsten to replace the materials that are currently used in solar power plants’ heat exchangers. The customized channels that exist between the elements of this composite have been shown to improve heat exchange, while also significantly reducing the costs of this material as compared to stainless steel or nickel alloy-based heat exchangers.
- Olenick, J., Venkateswaran, V., Korbut, G., & Newkirk, J. (2016). Ceramics in Clean Tech.
- Matizamhuka, W. R. (2018). Advanced ceramics – the new frontier in modern-day technology: Part I. Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. DOI: 10.17159/2411-9717/2018/v118n7a9.
- Patel, N. K., Bishop, S. R., Utter, R. G., Das, D., & Pecht, M. (2018). Failure Modes, Mechanisms, Effects and Criticality Analysis of Ceramic Anodes of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells. Electronics 7(323). DOI: 10.3390/electronics7110323.
- “Where can advanced ceramics be found?” – CeramTec
- “Green Materials Report: Ceramic Tile” – Green Building Elements
- “Ceramic metal composite could lower cost of electricity from solar power” – The American Ceramic Society