Synthesis of Silicon Nitride and Silicon Carbide Nanocomposites through High Energy Milling of Waste Silica Fume for Structural Applications

Date of Completion

January 2012


Engineering, Materials Science




Nanocomposites have been widely used in a multitude of applications in electronics and structural components because of their improved mechanical, electrical, and magnetic properties. Silicon nitride/Silicon carbide (Si 3N4/SiC) nanocomposites have been studied intensively for low and high temperature structural applications, such as turbine and automobile engine components, ball bearings, turbochargers, as well as energy applications due to their superior wear resistance, high temperature strength, high oxidation resistance and good creep resistance. Silica fume is the waste material produced during the manufacture of silicon and ferro-silicon alloys, and contains 94 to 97 wt.% SiO2. In the present dissertation, the feasibility of using waste silica fume as the raw material was investigated to synthesize (I) advanced nanocomposites of Si3N4/SiC, and (2) porous silicon carbide (SiC) for membrane applications. The processing approach used to convert the waste material to advanced ceramic materials was based on a novel process called, integrated mechanical and thermal activation process (IMTA) process. ^ In the first part of the dissertation, the effect of parameters such as carbothermic nitridation and reduction temperature and the graphite concentration in the starting silica fume plus graphite mixture, were explored to synthesize nanocomposite powders with tailored amounts of Si3N4 and SiC phases. An effective way to synthesize carbon-free Si3N 4/SiC composite powders was studied to provide a clear pathway and fundamental understanding of the reaction mechanisms. Si3N4/SiC nanocomposite powders were then sintered using two different approaches, based on liquid phase sintering and spark plasma sintering processes, with Al 2O3 and Y2O3 as the sintering aids. The nanocomposites were investigated for their densification behavior, microstructure, and mechanical properties. Si3N4/SiC nanocomposites thus obtained were found to possess superior mechanical properties at much lower costs. ^ The second part of the work has comprised of the successful fabrication of bilayered SiC membranes with a graded porosity, consisting of porous nano-SiC layer on the surface of a porous coarse-grained SiC support layer. The effect of different particle sizes of SiC in the support layers was systematically studied. Also, the effects of sintering temperature were investigated to control the pore size, particle size and overall density of the bi-layered SiC membrane. ^