New London center to develop stronger ceramic materials

Published 21 December 2007

Imperial College London launches Structural Ceramic Center; center will research and develop dramatically stronger and more durable structural ceramics made of inorganic materials such as oxides, carbides, and nitrides; new materials will be used in vehicle and body armor, reusable space craft, and pebble beds in nuclear reactors

As the lethality of munitions increases — think IEDs — there is a need to increase the strength and effectiveness of vehicle armor and personal protection equipment (PPE). It is thus good to see that Imperial College London has launched the Imperial College Structural Ceramic Center (ICSCC), a joint project between the college’s Departments of Materials and Mechanical Engineering. An Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Science and Innovation Award is funding the center with £6 million over a five-year period. The project aims dramatically to improve the strength and durability of structural ceramics, made of inorganic materials such as oxides, carbides, and nitrides, to meet industrial demand for materials that can withstand extreme environments. Projects will include collaborations with aerospace organizations such as NASA to develop the next generation of reusable spacecraft, which require new materials for tiles that can withstand both the freezing conditions of space and the scorching heat of take-off and re-entry.

The ICSCC will also focus on improving composite layers of ceramics that can absorb and deflect explosive high impact shells for body and vehicle armor for troops and security personnel . The application of ceramics in energy generation will also be explored, with potential applications in power generation including pebble bed nuclear reactors.

The funding will support the construction of laboratory facilities at Imperial’s South Kensington Campus, including the design and construction of instruments capable of measuring properties in ceramics, like strength and toughness.