Ceramic textiles, improved jet engine blades, 3-D printed ceramics and better batteries may soon become a reality, with the help of a recently patented polymer..
Researchers at the Kansas State University used five ingredients — silicon, boron, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen and created a liquid polymer that can transform into a ceramic with valuable thermal, optical and electronic properties. The waterlike polymer can also be mass-produced.
The polymer has the same density and viscosity as water, unlike some other silicon- and boron-containing polymers. Ceramics are valuable because they withstand extreme temperatures and are used for a variety of materials, including spark plugs, jet engines, high-temperature furnaces or even space exploration materials.
As a preceramic polymer, it can create lightweight ceramics instead of the usual heavy ceramics. The polymer can make ceramic fibers. If the polymer is heated to approximately 50 to 100 degrees Celsius, it becomes a gel similar to syrup or honey. During this gel state, the polymer can be pulled into strings or fibers to create ceramic textiles or ceramic mesh. It is also sprayable or can be used as a paint to make ceramic coatings. The ceramic can protect materials underneath or can create more efficient machinery that works in high-temperature environments, such as steam turbines or jet engine blades. The polymer also may be used for 3-D printing of ceramic parts using a benchtop SLA printer.
When combined with carbon nanotubes, the polymer has even more applications. It can create a black material that can absorb all light — even ultraviolet and infrared light — without being damaged. The combined nanomaterial can withstand extreme heat of 15,000 watts per square centimeter, which is about 10 times more heat than a rocket nozzle.
The polymer could be used to produce ceramic with tunable electrical conductivity ranging from insulator or semiconductor. The presence of silicon and graphene-like carbon in the ceramic can improve electrodes for lithium-ion batteries.