Follow Our Progress
On this page, you'll find news about our low energy firing project – the commercialization of flash sintering technology - to sinter a ceramic at dramatically reduced temperatures and reduced firing time.
Work has begun on toughening materials for use in biomaterials. This is an exciting new step towards enhancing the properties of advanced ceramics.
Lucideon's FS team has been awarded a grant via innovate UK to begin investigation work on contactless sintering technology. Building on technology developments so far, this research has multiple industry applications, specifically relevant for:
- Removing the requirement for product re-fire in the sanitaryware industry
- Application of fields to ceramics with complex morphologies (advanced ceramics, tableware etc.)
- Optimizing FS techniques for glazed tileware
The Flash Sintering labs have grown with the development of a new, large furnace. This split furnace will allow the team to begin developing continuous feed FS technology at the prototype stage, for specific use within the tile industry.
Commercial Tile Sintered using Dynamic Flash Sintering Technology
Work continuing at the Lucideon Flash Sintering lab has broken new ground in the commercialization of the technology. A 15 by 15 cm commercial tile has met the ISO standard for MOR testing after undergoing dynamic flash sintering, and is now under further analysis. Lucideon scientists and engineers have developed a method replicating manufacture with applied electric fields for the sintering of tiles at furnace temperatures as low as 600°C.
Scale up of the technology to a manufacturing scale is moving forward with the re-engineering of their 25m roller kiln, trials will begin shortly.
We were invited to ClayTech UK to give an update on the progress we have made on the Flash Sintering Project. The conference was a success as delegates were able to have a better understanding of the process and could see how it was being practically applied to Whiteware sintering.
The roller kiln design with the inclusion of dynamic electrode systems has been completed. The re-engineering of the firing zones at which the tiles are at maximum temperature will begin in January 2015.
Work is on-going to refine the electrode materials to be used in manufacturing but with promising results so far. Many challenges are to be overcome in the next few weeks and months, these include: long term material durability under sintering conditions.
Electrical systems are now in place to sinter large commercial tiles in the roller kiln at Lucideon during our manufacturing trials next year. Commercial tiles (15 x 15 cm) were successfully sintered in the specially designed split furnace with our dynamic electrode prototype.
Alongside the refinement of the sintering process for commercial size tile pieces the re-design of the roller kiln for manufacturing scale up is on-going.
This year Lucideon was invited to speak by Dr. Luc Vandeperre at the annual Summer School situated within the Centre for Advanced Structural Ceramics (CASC), Imperial College London. Dr. Vandeperre of Imperial College London has taken a keen interest in the work done by the Flash Sintering Team in not only revolutionizing the sintering process but in scaling it up to an industrial manufacturing process.
The lecture given included a background to Flash Sintering as well as latest experimentation on white ware sintering. It generated considerable interest amongst the attendees, from both industry and academia.
05 August 2014 - Much progress has been made in our experimentation of the application of flash sintering technology to tileware.
We have been busy building prototypes and testing a variety of electrode designs in the development kiln. The selection of the electrode material is of significant importance. A lot of time has been spent on the evaluation and testing of a range of materials; the chosen material needs to be durable in long periods of operation and remain conductive in conditions where it is exposed to oxidizing or reducing atmospheres in the manufacturing kiln.
The electrode material selection is also important as different materials can operate more effectively, depending on the choice of ceramic body which is to be sintered with flash sintering technology.
Flash sintering parameters are another variable which have to be configured for individual bodies; with the use of SEM, XRD and mechanical testing it has been possible to determine which parameters result in a homogenously sintered tile under flash sintering conditions.
We have selected a range of power requirements for the electrical systems which are to be used to examine the application of flash sintering technology on larger tile samples. The initial power supply units have been designed and specified.
We have also begun to place orders for the delivery of the electromechanical parts which have been designed to ensure we are able to apply the flash sintering system to larger tileware pieces.
Flash Sintering - The development of flash sintering systems has generated new knowledge for us – we are busy exploring a number of beneficial effects of the technology on processing a broader range of materials. This is proving to be exciting work that bodes well for future technology applications.
30 January 2014 - Our prototype testing furnace has been delivered and the team have been working very hard setting up/testing our power supply and implementing control systems, alongside insitu experimental analysis equipment. Andrew, our Senior Mechanical Design Engineer has been busy putting up all the mechanical architecture that we require for testing various electrode setups. The Electrical and Controls design team have ensured that the power supply and controls systems are safe to use under any set parameters. The yellow cage which surrounds the kiln is one such safety feature. The setup is now complete to test ceramic pieces for phase one of the transition from laboratory scale to industrial setting. We will keep you posted on prototype progress as we move forward.
04 December 2013 - We are currently awaiting delivery of the prototype test rig furnace; this will enable us to test various electrode system designs and the mechanical delivery system, and eventually lead to scale-up for the roller kiln in 2014. On the material testing side, we have considerably narrowed down the experimental variables which affect the microstructure of the material, this has led to a more even microstructure throughout the test samples.
17 September 2013 - We’re pleased to welcome Chris Green to the team. As Electrical Design Engineer, Chris will be responsible for the electrical design system on the kiln. His PhD and postdoctoral research focused on the design and characterization of nanostructured polymer materials for high voltage insulation. Following his postdoctorate he gained experience managing an international R&D project in the power transmission sector.
19 August 2013 - 3D model of the roller kiln created (see image below). The model will provide the team and stakeholders with a visual representation of all work and modifications being undertaken throughout the low energy firing project, thus allowing all mechanical modifications to be manipulated and positioned before any physical changes are introduced. This will illustrate how the sintering technology can be integrated into a commercial production process.
09 August 2013 - We’ve been busy since the initial switch-on in May…
- The kiln has been tested to full capacity
- Small scale trials are continuing (with promising results) for uniform sintering of whitewares at lower temperatures (700 to 950°C)
- Electrode materials are being short listed and suitability trials are to commence shortly
- Prototype designs are underway for implementing the technology to a whiteware production process
- Kiln loading systems have been improved for consistent experimentation
3 June 2013 - We’re pleased to announce that Aminat Bolarinwa has joined the low energy firing project team. Aminat is a Chemical Engineer with a MEng degree in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Her PhD was on the formulation of a bioresponsive ceramic bone replacement, focusing on establishing a link between condensed calcium phosphate degradation and the presence of biological stimuli before formulating and testing (physical and biological) bulk condensed calcium phosphates under various conditions. Since completing her PhD she has gained further experience working in automotive and industrial fluid groups assisting with formulating and testing lubricants.
16 May 2013 - Fantastic day yesterday as we officially launched the low energy firing technology kiln. Phil Noble, Director of Technical Design at Wienerberger gave a great speech on innovation and John van de Laarschot, Chief Executive of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, talked about how the City is a great place to do business.
10 May 2013 - We are gearing up for our official opening of the kiln on 15 May.
9 May 2013 - The kiln has been switched on for the first time!
1 May 2013 - Dr. Kambiz Kalantari, Technical Consultant, Materials Science, checks out the kiln.
28 March 2013 - The kiln is starting to take shape.
25 March 2013 - All the parts have arrived - now it just has to be built!
22 March 2013 - The kiln arrived today!
And this is where it will be built. Keep checking back for photos of the build.
18 March 2013 - A (very short!) video showing the early outcomes of our low energy firing technology development. The whiteware material can be seen to glow as its internal heat is increased dramatically over a very short period of time with the temperature of the furnace some hundreds of degrees Celsius below that used for the conventional firing process.
The scale up work will be fully underway with the kiln arriving on site at Lucideon this week!
11 February 2013 - We’re pleased to announce that
Dr Kambiz Kalantari has joined us to work on the low energy firing project. Kambiz is a materials scientist with a BSc and MSc in ceramics science and engineering. His PhD research was focused on electroceramics for multiferroic applications; their processing, microstructure and electrical characterization.
22 January 2013 - the kiln is due to arrive early Q2. Watch this space for more photos of the build.
15 January 2013 - This is an exciting time at Lucideon as the low energy firing project is beginning to move forward at quite a pace. To prepare for the kiln installation and commissioning we are now recruiting the multidisciplinary team to begin work on this ground-breaking technology development project. Initially the team will be made up of materials scientists, technologists, mechanical and electrical engineers, adding to the already wide range of expertise here at Lucideon. We will also be working with some of the world's leading experts in firing technology throughout the duration of the project, with interest coming from many different organizations.