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Definition: ceramic 1 from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1850) : of or relating to the manufacture of any product (as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature; also : of or relating to such a product


Summary Article: ceramic
from The Penguin Dictionary of Science

A material composed of minute platelets that can be easily shaped when wet; when heated to a very high temperature it becomes permanently rigid. A common method of making a ceramic is to add sand (essentially ➤silica) to a ➤clay or a ➤feldspar. The typical characteristics of ceramics, all of which stem from their giant (and complicated) aluminosilicate structure, are high melting point, high strength, good electrical insulation and good thermal insulation. Ceramics have many uses, including crockery and furnace linings. Ceramic tiles are used on the space shuttle to resist the very high temperatures generated by atmospheric friction on re-entry. An exciting new application was promised by the discovery in 1986 of special ceramics that show high-temperature (above liquid nitrogen) ➤superconductivity. While they are used for specialist magnets for scientific research, their more widespread commercial applications have been more limited than expected because of their brittle nature.

Copyright © M. J. Clugston, 1998, 2004, 2009, 2014

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