Ceramic materials present a large range of properties, depending from its crystallinity, microstructure and chemical bond (ionic or covalent). They are particularly appreciated for their stiffness, extreme resistance to high temperature, high electrical resistance/breakdown voltage and resistance to corrosion. Since the prehistory ceramics played a fundamental role in manufacturing of handwork pieces and as construction material, mainly in the form of carved stones or clays to be fired. On top of these applications, which still continue today, ceramics are also used for high-performance materials (technical ceramics) e.g. to cut tools, electrical insulators, coatings. Some ceramics like piezoelectrics and semiconductors represent a crucial component of the smart materials family.

Synchrotron radiation can offer an evaluation of the main parameters, which can influence the physico-chemical properties and the performances of these materials. X-rays can provide information about their chemical bonds, the electronic structure, the composition (and contaminants), the nature and the position of the atoms in the unit-cell.  X-rays can also provide information on the microstructure and the residual strain inside the material. The high flux of the synchrotron light can allow to have a higher sensitivity (i.e. better detection limit) and to have real time and high throughput characterisations. Thanks to the high spatial resolution x-ray tridimensional characterisations that are possible at the ESRF, researchers can investigate multiphase materials at the nanoscale.

A few of the possibilities of research that the ESRF offers are:

  • Characterisation of phases and particle distribution in ceramic matrix nano-composites.
  • Analysis of open porosity in foams and residual porosity in sintered objects.
  • Study of materials under stress and conduction of fatigue tests. 
  • Analysis of physico-chemical properties via X-ray spectroscopy.
  • In-situ characterisation under manufacturing conditions and extreme conditions of operation.
  • Analysis of residual strain.