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Ceramics are known for their strength, hardness, thermal properties and durability. Many also have a variety of useful electrical properties, ranging from insulators to superconductors.
In general, ceramics are strong insulators, with a very low electrical conductivity. The primary technical ceramics are Alumina, Hexoloy, Zirconia and Silicon Carbide. They are all used in a wide variety of applications with different requirements, depending on their unique electrical and magnetic properties.
Conductive ceramics like semi-metals (lead oxide, ruthenium oxide and bismuth iridate) have the highest conductivities of all ceramics. This is because they have overlapping electron energy bands, just as metals do. They are often used as ceramic “inks” in screen printing processes for forming thick-film microcircuits. They are mixed with suitable organics, which provide the flow properties that allow them to be screen printed. On firing, the organics burn away leaving the conductive ceramic particles dispersed throughout the glaze.
On the other hand, insulating ceramics, such as Fine Ceramics, are excellent for protecting sensitive electronic components. They are commonly used to package quartz crystal oscillators and surface acoustic wave filters in mobile phones and automotive navigation systems.
Piezoelectric ceramics are an emerging class of electroceramic materials that transform mechanical energy into electric energy, and vice versa. Commercially available piezoceramics are primarily lead zirconate titanate (PZT) and barium titanate, although strontium titanium nitrate and lanthanum strontium manganite exhibit magnetoresistance as well. There is a vigorous research effort to develop new high temperature superconductors based on these and other ceramics.