Ceramic materials are some of the oldest manufacturing and art materials known to man. Some of the oldest human artifacts are pottery — a type of ceramic — produced some 27,000 years ago. That’s certainly a testament to the durability of the material.
Ceramic materials are used in all sorts of industrial and artistic settings, but the first ceramic material that might come to mind is the ceramic tile in your bathroom or kitchen.
And, as we can see in the image above of a wall covered in a beautiful ceramic tile by Merola, ceramic materials can be quite eye-catching as well as practical.
What are ceramics? Ceramics are non-metallic substances created through exposure to high heat and then cooling. When heated, these substances form crystalline structures at the molecular level, which make them rigid and strong.
What are some of the cool properties of ceramic? Ceramics can be molded into just about any shape you’d want, and after heating will remain rigid and durable. Ceramics can be good thermal and electrical insulators, and they don’t oxidize (rust). Add a glaze to ceramic tile, and it’s practically impervious to water. The glaze will also smooth out the surface to the point that teeny-tiny particles and microscopic critters such as bacteria don’t have much to hold on to. That’s why ceramics are used in places that need to be especially clean.
How is ceramic used? Let’s see … it’s rigid and durable. An electrical insulator. Doesn’t rust. Impervious to water. That sounds like a great material for the floors and walls of bathrooms and kitchens! That’s why ceramic tile is one of the most common uses of the material. Those same properties make ceramics good for dinner plates and other tableware. We are all familiar with ceramics as an artistic medium. And that’s not to mention the many high-tech uses, including semi-conductors, bio-medical implants, spark plugs, and even heat tiles on the Space Shuttles.