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Sodium ion-conductive silicon nitride ceramic with Na2O–Al2O3–SiO2 glass as the grain boundary phase was fabricated by adding Na2CO3, Al2O3, and SiO2 as sintering additives. The electrical conductivity was two and four orders of magnitude higher than that of Si3N4 ceramic with Y2O3 and Al2O3 additives at 100 and 1000°C, respectively. This result clearly indicates that ionic conductivity can be provided to insulating structural ceramics by modification of the grain boundary phase without dispersion of conductive particles.
Highly densed silicon nitride ceramics with various α/β phase ratios were produced by pulse electric current sintering process. The β-phase content of Si3N4 in sintered materials varied from 20 to 100 wt% depending on the sintering condition. The microstructure was observed by scanning electron microscopy and investigated by image analysis. Young's modulus, hardness, fracture toughness, and strength were strongly dependent on the α/β phase ratio. The fracture toughness increased from 4.6 MPa m1/2 for 20-wt% b-phase content to 8.2 MPa m1/2 for 95-wt% β-phase content, and the fracture strength showed a maximum value of about 1.6 GPa at 60-to-80-wt% β-phase content.
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