In 1986 the first superconducting ceramic was created . Just a year later, a Nobel Prize honored the discovery. This fact alone should make everyone appreciate the momentous occasion it represents. For example, Einstein was awarded Nobel Prize 5 years after his paper on general relativity and almost 16 years after his first historical paper on special relativity. Moreover, the prize was not awarded for these papers. Scientific community appreciated the importance of electroceramics in a much shorter time. Just a few years later, and everyone was trying their hand at the newest scientific fad. Currently most high temperature superconductors (SC) are made from brittle copper oxides ceramics. These materials can maintain superconductivity at temperatures significantly higher (-138C) than liquid nitrogen boiling point (-196C). While one still cannot use them for everyday appliances, these ceramics are incredibly useful both in scientific and in super computation fields . Most scientists cherish hope that even higher temperatures, even as high as room temperature, can be achieved in the future. Therefore, the subject of SC ceramics is a highly contentious one. Even slight changes in substance behavior can lead to significant breakthroughs in its use.
The dynamic duo of scientists K.E. Kamentsev and A.A. Bush have found that using serial dilutions of SC ceramics can influence the physical properties of a copper oxide YBa2Cu3Oy. One of the most important characteristics, superconductivity transition temperature, was improved by almost 4C. Such a significant change shows that crystalline structure of a compound can be physically influenced by adding serial dilutions to the mix. The ability of superconductor to expulse the magnetic field (one of the important intrinsic qualities of SCs, otherwise known as Meissner effect) was also improved by 9%. Scientist are highly optimistic that such changes in crystals can lead to new robust ways of improving ceramic superconductors.
However, it was not duo’s first foray into the field serial dilutions. Just two years prior, they have been able to change the properties of Bi3TiNbO9 piezoelectric. What is piezoelectric? Glad you asked. As an attentive reader might have noticed, the name of this publication is “future of electroceramics”, not “future of superconductive ceramics”. That is precisely because modern ceramics are used not only for their superconductive properties.
In the last hundred years, electroceramics found themselves in a whole lot of different applications. Ferroelectrics with their ability to switch electric polarization are used as capacitors and even memory modules in computational systems. Ferrite ceramics can be highly magnetic and useful anywhere from refrigerator magnets to microwaves. Piezoelectric ceramics have their mechanical structure inextricably linked to electric voltage acting on them. This fact can be used both ways, some applications make current from physical deformations , some deform as a result of applied voltage. An easy example of the first would be a piezoelectric element in a gas lighter (hopefully, everyone have carefully disassembled one at some point in his or her life). The second version have found its use in many electrical switches and other small-scale mechanisms. Both can be exceptionally often seen in laboratories as most measuring equipment . For example, all of modern electrical scales use piezoelectric ceramics.
The aforementioned duo of scientists was able to improve pyroelectric coefficient and mechanical modulus of piezoelectric ceramic by almost 25% just by treating the ceramic powder with ultrahigh dilutions before hot pressing the powder into functioning piezoelectric plates. Moreover, the aforementioned changes were observed in a range of temperatures up to 900 degrees, making these ceramics highly viable in high temperature piezo or pyro electric applications.
Those two cases show ultrahigh dilutions capability to change basic physical properties of crystals to a significant degree. If two commonly found types of electroceramics were influenced by this technology, other types could as well. This makes scientists very optimistic about different future avenues of development.
The future of electroceramics is surely looking bright and just as surely highly diluted.