This paper reviews the status of structural ceramics in Japan. Until around 1980, successful applications of these materials were limited to wear-resistant parts and structural components working under very low stresses. Considerable work has been done over the years on applying ceramics to mechanical parts used under higher stresses. This led to some successful applications of silicon nitride to automotive components, including turbocharger rotors and glow plugs. However, the recent market for silicon nitride automotive components has not been as large as was expected. Cordierite honeycombs for catalysts and diesel particulate filters made of silicon carbide are becoming more important applications in Japan. It is noteworthy that the Japanese market for structural ceramics has been steadily increasing since 1985, with the leading applications being apparatus for purifying the exhaust gas of automotive engines and parts for semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Alumina, for example, is widely used for vacuum process chambers. High-purity alumina is also used for the components of liquid crystal device manufacturing equipment and various mechanical parts. The recent applications of structural ceramics in Japan summarized in this review include vacuum process chambers for manufacturing semiconductor and liquid crystal devices, wear-resistant ceramics used for steel-making, optical lens forming and cutting tools, refractory tubes for casting aluminum alloys, and automotive applications. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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