Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.M.E.

Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.

Keywords

B4C, Silicon carbide, SiC, Titanium diboride, TiB2

Abstract

The mechanical properties of boron carbide (B4C) with 10 and 20 vol% particulate inclusions of commercially available nano-sized alpha-phase silicon carbide (a-SiC) or micron-sized titanium diboride (TiB2) were investigated so as to produce a fine-grained material with high hardness, toughness, and overall strength in order to increase the effectiveness of B4C as a structural ceramic, whose use in the field has been limited because of the extreme brittle nature of the material. Full density sintering of the ceramics (+ [or] -99% theoretical) was completed using the novel Plasma Pressure Compaction (P²C®) technique, which limited grain growth due to a reduced processing temperature and a significantly reduced consolidation time. The reinforced ceramic composites had particulate grains homogeneously distributed within the B4C matrix. X-ray diffraction patterns confirmed that the constituents did not interdiffuse.

The four-point flexure strength for the monolithic B4C ceramic was found to be significantly larger than any recorded value found in scientific literature, and was most likely attributed to the fine-grained microstructure resulting from the P²C® processing. The mechanical properties of the nano-sized a-SiC-B4C ceramics showed a slight increase in the Chevron-notched four-point bend fracture toughness due to the crack deflection toughening mechanism. A slight decrease in the Vickers microhardness and the static elastic modulus values were also observed. A significant increase in the fracture toughness as well as a slight increase in the microhardness and elastic modulus of the micron-sized TiB2-B4C materials was found.

The toughening mechanism of this composite was attributed to the slight chemical bond between the B4C matrix and the ultra-small, ultra-tough TiB2 particulates, which forced a propagating crack to completely rip apart the TiB2 reinforcing particles. This cleaving nature resulted in significant amounts of energy being absorbed by the micron-sized particulates. It was concluded that the composite with 20 vol% TiB2 allowed for the largest gain in toughness because it possessed the largest number of ultra small, ultra tough particulate-cracktip interactions.

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