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Ceramics Engineers

History

When we refer to ceramics we often think only of objects made of clay, like cups and saucers. Thousands of years ago, ceramics makers were limited by a dependence on this one raw material. Originally, clay was probably merely dried in the sun to harden before use. Later, approximately 7,000 years ago, it was being fired to make it more durable, but not many further advancements were made in its development and use for thousands of years. Ceramics makers produced things made of clay to fulfill the basic household need of storing and serving food and liquids. Based on research, it is believed that making pottery was exclusively the work of women. Throughout the world and over the centuries, changes made by workers were relatively minor when considering the many uses of ceramics today; they changed basic forms and glazings, their artistic impressions developed and spread, and they used higher temperature materials.

Not until the scientific and industrial revolutions of the 19th century did people begin to use ceramics in complex scientific and industrial processes. Individuals skilled with ceramic materials began to develop new, manmade materials to be used in high-technology applications. New uses were also developed for naturally occurring materials, which made possible the development of new products that were stronger, more transparent, or more magnetic. The earliest ceramics engineers used porcelains for high-voltage electrical insulation. Ceramics engineers benefited other industries as well, developing, for example, materials for spark plugs (automotive and aerospace industries) and magnetic and semiconductor materials (electronics industry).

Today, basic ceramic materials such as clay and sand are being used not only by artists and craftspeople, but also by engineers to create a variety of products—memory storage, optical communications, and electronics. Ceramics engineers are working with more advanced materials as well (many produced by chemical processes), including high-strength silicon carbides, nitrides, and fracture-resistant zirconias.

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