The results of rolling contact fatigue (RCF), tests conducted on various ceramic-based materials that were subjected high-performance bearing loads, show that only fully dense silicon nitride is capable of outperforming bearing steel. RCF has a ten-fold longer service life than high performance bearing steel, according to the all-compact Si3N4 Bearing material. A high-speed rotating body may cause significant centrifugal stresses. Because it is a low-density metal, silicon nitride can be as light and thin as aluminum. This material has an additional benefit. Low Si3N4 density reduces centrifugal stresses on the outer ring at the rotating high-speed body. Silicon nitride ceramics have a high tensile force that resists elongation. It also has excellent flexural strength, so they can withstand stress and yield. High fracture toughness and modulus are also characteristics of full density Si3N4, which make the material extremely resistant to wear phenomena. The material can endure harsh conditions which may cause other ceramics to break, crack or deform.
It is capable of displaying superior mechanical and thermal properties making it suitable to demanding industrial applications. A material’s thermal conductivity refers to its inherent ability to conduct or transfer heat. It is an important factor that determines whether or not engineered materials can withstand extreme temperature conditions for industrial applications. Silicon nitride, due to its unique chemical and microstructure compositions, has the same low thermal conductivity of metals.
These properties allow silicon nitride reduce its thermal conductivity significantly in high temperature environments. The thermal expansion problem occurs when material are heated, and the size or volume of those materials increases in tiny increments. It depends on how heated the material is. A material’s ratio of thermal expansion coefficients will indicate how large it expands for every 1degC rise. Because of the strength of Si3N4, which is an atomic bond, this material exhibits a low coefficient for thermal expansion. This results in very low temperature deformation.
The superior thermal qualities of silicon nitride make it less susceptible to high-speed radiation than other ceramics. Due to its low dielectric constant, which is how a substance stores electrical energy in an electromagnetic field, and high strength as well as heat resistance silicon nitride makes it a preferred material for various RF applications.
This unique combination of properties has led further research to its use as structural clay in medical applications. In vitro experiments and further studies with animals involving silicon nitride injections have shown that silicon nitride is biocompatible. This was confirmed in the 1980s. An in vitro study from 1999 further confirmed the biocompatibility claim for Si3N4 to promote the growth of functional human bones cells. These results further support silicon nitride’s position as an important biomedical product. Additionally to being biocompatible, silicon nitride has been shown to possess surface chemical characteristics that encourage bone formation (osteogenesis), as well as increase contact between implants and bone.
The strong and stable atomic bonds make silicon nitride highly resistant to acidic and alkaline corrosion at room temperatures. This property is crucial when implantation of silicon nitride in watery or salty environments for long term. This is due to the formation on the material’s surface an oxide layer. When silicon nitride was placed in hot gases, molten metals, or other environments, the same resistance resulted. In the resistance to corrosion of materials, the formation of oxide layers plays an important and complicated role.
Its unique microstructure that self-reinforces, its high strength and toughness, as well as many other outstanding properties makes silicon nitride a desirable structural component. This is also a good choice for applications in biomedical and industrial industries.
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