Glasses and ceramics
The sol-gel fabrication technique is mainly used to make oxide glasses and ceramics; for example, silica (SiO2), alumina (Al2O3), titania (TiO2) and indium tin oxide (ITO). Combinations of these ceramics (such as silica-titania) can also be produced.
The advantage of sol-gel is the much higher level of purity that can be achieved compared with normal ceramic processing methods. This is because the raw materials used in sol-gel (either very fine, ~25nm diameter powders or chemical compounds) are manufactured from highly purified components. Although this is not necessary for many applications, some specialised sectors including displays, semiconductors and the nuclear industry do require very low levels of certain impurities.
Inorganic hybrids and nanocomposites
The sol-gel method also allows novel materials to be produced. For example, organic components can be incorporated into the ceramic network to improve adhesion or increase its water repellency or to allow the ceramic to be more readily incorporated in organic formulations for coatings, adhesives, inks or paints.
TWI has developed a technology, VitolaneTM that allows these nanostructured hybrids to be produced in a rapid fashion.
For further information please contact us.