In this study, thermal radiation was employed for sintering silicon carbide foams that achieved a gradient porous structure. The simultaneous use of graphite and carbon fiber reinforced carbon composite (Cf/C) radiators resulted in an axial temperature gradient of ~600°C along the cylindrical sample, as confirmed by both numerical simulation and experimental measurement. By sintering the cylinder top at 1600°C for 5 min, the porous SiC body achieved an axial pore size gradient from ~106 ± 36 μm to ~250 ± 84 μm and an open porosity from 41.4 to 79.8 vol%. This work indicates the potential of sintering by intense thermal radiation technique for rapid manufacturing functionally graded materials through asymmetric assembly of thermal radiators.
Sintering is an important processing step for obtaining the necessary mechanical stability and rigidity of ceramic bulk materials. Both mass and heat transfer are essential in the sintering process. The importance of radiation heat transfer is significantly enhanced at high temperatures according to the well-known Stefan-Boltzmann’s law. In this thesis, we modified the pressure-less spark plasma sintering set-up to generate intense thermal radiation, aiming at rapid consolidation of ceramic bulk materials. This approach was named as “Sintering by Intense Thermal Radiation (SITR)” as only thermal radiation contributed.
Firstly, the heat and mass transfer mechanisms during the SITR process were studied by choosing zirconia ceramics as references. The results revealed that the multiple scattering and absorption of radiation by the materials contributed to the heat diffusion. The observed enhanced densification and grain growth can be explained by a multiple ordered coalescence of zirconia nanocrystals using high heating rates.
Secondly, the temperature distribution during the SITR process was investigated by both numerical simulation and experimental verifications. It showed that the radiator geometry, sample geometry and radiating area were influencing factors. Besides, the change of material and geometry of the radiators resulted in an asymmetric temperature distribution that favored the formation of SiC foams. The foams had gradient structures with different open porosity levels and pore sizes and size distributions.
Finally, ceramic bulk materials were successfully fabricated by the SITR method within minutes. These materials included dense and strong ZrO2 ceramics, Si3N4 foams decorated with one-dimensional nanostructures, and nasal cavity-like SiC-Si3N4 foams with hierarchical heterogeneities. Sufficient densification or formed strong necks were used for tailoring these unique microstructures. The SITR approach is well applicable for fast manufacture of ceramic bulk materials because it is clean and requires low energy consumption and properties can be controlled and tuned by selective heating, heating speed or temperature distribution.
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted. Paper 4: Manuscript.