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Comparison of acoustic emission produced during bending of various oxide ceramic and short fiber oxide ceramic matrix composites.

1. Introduction

Acoustic emission (AE) is a potential testing method to monitor the integrity of materials, mechanisms of fracture, and other processes. It is nowadays applied in almost all areas of science and technology of materials, e.g. [1, 2]. The monitoring of AE events from ceramic specimens, which are stressed can be divided into two stages. In the first stage the damage (any active discontinuity) inside the specimen produces an AE event, which propagates through the material and arrives at a transducer. In the second stage, the event is converted into an equivalent electronic signal and finally detected as an AE count. It is generally assumed that in coarse structured poly-phase ceramics where there are mismatch stresses between grains, the minimum stress, at which AE activity starts, coincides with the onset of grain size fracture. During repeated loading/unloading of most of ceramic materials, Kaiser effect is observed. This means that during the second and next loadings the AE is zero or close to the background level till the stress reaches the largest previously reached stress level. Above that level the AE activity is increased dramatically.

In the present work, which is based in a paper presented at the EWGAE 2010 [3], the AE behavior of a number of oxide ceramics and short fiber composites is compared and discussed.

The chemical composition and other characteristics of the materials compared in the present work are given in Tables 1 and 2.

A large number of specimens (75 x 20 x 10 mm, length x width x height) was produced for every formulation by slip casting. Mechanical testing was performed using an Instron 1195 machine in compression. The specimens were placed in the three-point bend loading rig with a span of 50 mm. In order to permit sensitive AE monitoring the supports of the bend rig (10-mm steel bars) were covered with neoprene rubber to reduce the possibility of recording noise from the machine and the metal ceramic contact points. The fractured surfaces were examined in a JEOL T-330 scanning electron microscope with resolution of 4.3 nm at 25 kV accelerating voltage. Charging was avoided by application of a gold layer of 200-400 A, under low-pressure argon gas, using a 'cool' Edwards S150B Sputter Coater. A Philips X-ray diffractometer with a PW1820/00 vertical goniometer and a PW1710 microprocessor-based control and measuring system were used for XRD analysis. AE analysis was performed using a low noise MRP-01 MARANDY preamplifier with 60-dB gain and processing of the amplified signals was done by a MARANDY/MR 1004 amplitude analysis system, which stores the digital AE data as a function of time together with A-D converted load signals. The system provides information about the peak amplitude of each event (the peak amplitude is given relative to 10 mV). All AE activity was recorded during three-point bending. Schematic representation of the three-point bend testing rig and the AE system is given in Fig. 1. Details on specimen preparation and other experimental details are given elsewhere [4-6].

3. Results and Discussion

Selected SEM and AE curves from the examined systems sintered at various temperatures are presented in Figs. 2 to 8.


a. Oxide ceramics

Kaolin, a characteristic oxide ceramic, is an acoustically quiet material of low strength in the non-sintered condition. For comparison, specimens of soda-lime glass with similar dimensions were tested in the same rig. The results (Fig. 5) showed that kaolin specimens break with almost no AE. This is probably due to the absence of any connecting phase since it is composed of kaolin aggregates. Similar behavior was observed in the glass specimens (Fig. 5a). After sintering, they become acoustically active even at very low stresses during flexure testing (Fig. 6a). The acoustic activity increases with increasing sintering temperature probably as a result of structure development during sintering (Fig. 2a); kaolin changes from the weak point-bonded structure to a well-formed glass-mullite structure as sintering temperature is increased from 1000[degrees]C to 1300[degrees]C. The latter structures are stronger and produce more AE events during testing since more sub-critical activity (micro-cracking) occurs before fracture. The AE activity starts at low stresses, virtually from the very beginning of load application. In most of the examined specimens a load application of a few N (2-3% of the ultimate fracture load) was enough for constant AE. The event rate (count/s) is extremely low (less than 5) during loading of specimens sintered at 1000[degrees]C and is increased to around 10 at fracture, while it is around 60 in specimens sintered at 1300[degrees]C and is increased to around 300 count/s near fracture [4].







The Kaiser effect (Fig. 6b) was observed in all kaolin specimens during recording of cumulative events versus load in repeated loadings and is especially clear in those ceramics with high AE activity. The first loading is sufficient to cause all the subcritical damage in the specimen up to that load. Further damage does not happen until the first load is exceeded. There is absolute lack of any AE activity during the second loading till the same load level, after which AE activity started again till fracture. Although it is not absolutely correct to allocate to each AE event a subcritical event, since the number of AE events collected through the transducer is influenced by many factors, it is reasonable to accept that high AE counts indicates numerous subcritical events.

Pottery mixture specimens generally produced the same behavior as kaolin specimens. Structure (Fig. 2b) and strength development increases the sub-critical sites for AE activity, which are "activated" during mechanical testing. Pottery mixture specimens sintered at 900[degrees]C present the same kind of AE cumulative events, rate, distribution and linear relation between load and deflection as the kaolin specimens sintered at 1000[degrees]C. As the sintering temperature increases from 900 to 1300[degrees]C, AE activity becomes more intense in a similar manner to that of kaolin. Pottery mixture specimens show the Kaiser effect (Fig. 7a) in a similar manner to that of kaolin.

SEM examination of brick-clays sintered at various temperatures (900-1100[degrees]C) showed that during sintering a glass structure is gradually developed (Fig. 3) [5]. Brick-clay specimens sintered at the same temperatures as pottery mixture generally showed the same behavior and the Kaiser effect, but are more acoustically active (giving higher cumulative events) and have higher event rates. As an example, comparison of AE activity between pottery and brick-clay sintered at 1100[degrees]C shows almost four times higher cumulative AE events in the case of brick-clay specimen. During cooling of the sintered brick-clay, radial tensile stresses are produced forming cracks due to difference in contraction between sand particles and glassy matrix. The application of external stresses produces an increase of the total stress field (enlargement of the process zone) resulting in additional cracking and consequently additional AE events.

AE examination of 5 wt.% and 10 wt.% fly ash-kaolin composites (sintered at 1000[degrees]C) showed low AE activity (Fig. 7b) during mechanical testing. This is lower than that of pure kaolin, since fly ash is a fine grain constituent (most has a grain size less than 45 [micro]m). When fly ash is added to kaolin, such composites possess a cracked structure, reducing their strength and fracture toughness and making the structure weaker and looser. This is why Kaiser effect is less defined with large noise background, as has been reported in rocks [7, 8]. In Fig. 7b, the slope of AE activity curve starts to increase when the load reaches the maximum load during the first loading.

b. Fiber oxide ceramic matrix composites

SEM micrographs from (a) a kaolin+9 vol.% mullite fiber and (b) kaolin+8.55 vol.% Grafil composites sintered at 1000[degrees]C are shown in Fig. 4. Generally, increased sintering temperature produces composites with higher AE activity for similar reasons to that of powder ceramics. Increase of the volume fraction of fibers in the kaolin matrix also increases the AE activity. In pure kaolin, a low AE event rate increases just before fracture (Fig. 6a), which is a common characteristic of clay ceramic materials. In composite ceramics, while the event rate is low at the beginning, later there is a comparatively high AE event rate at loading at about half of the fracture load. The AE event rate eventually drops before fracture. This behavior could be attributed to the presence of fibers, the breakage of which produces a high AE event rate before the final fracture.

SEM examination of oxide-fiber composites (Fig. 4b) shows that the main fracture path is through the matrix and fiber with no indication of fiber pull-out or fiber-debonding. Increase of fiber volume fraction produces a large increase of AE activity. As an example, AE counts under identical conditions from pure kaolin (Fig. 6a) with a kaolin-matrix composite having 9.2% B-95 [alpha]-[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3] fiber (Fig. 8a) were compared. The comparison shows a five-fold increase, from about 2000 of 8000 events, which means that about 80% of the composite AE activity is due to fibers and only 20% to matrix sub-critical activity. Further measurements showed that increase of [alpha]-[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3] fiber content to 14% gives an increase to about 26000 AE events (not illustrated), showing that about 90% of the AE activity is due to fiber content. It could be assumed that this increase is a result of numerous sub-critical events due to fiber fracture during the application of load.

In almost all the cases, the way that AE events are distributed is similar to that of kaolin specimens. Another general observation is that the event rate in composites under the testing conditions used in this work is about 1000 events/sec, and is almost constant irrespective of sintering temperature, fiber content and chemical composition of fibers.

Finally, Kaiser effect was observed in all ceramic composites irrespective of the kind of the fibers (Figs. 8a-9). No AE activity was observed during unloading, a fact that indicates that the sub-critical activity during loading is an irreversible process. Another observation was the difference of AE event rates between the first and second loadings. During the first loading a high event rate (up to 800 counts/s) was recorded in all cases with sudden peaks of high activity, during the second loading the event rate curve is smooth with a rate of almost nil up to the load of the first loading.




The load-deflection-AE event rate curves of ceramic composites with oxide fiber and graphite fiber show clear differences and similarities, which may be connected to interfaces and fracture mechanism of these composites. The oxide fiber composites have a load-deflection curve similar to that of powder ceramics with an almost linear increase of load with deflection up to fracture, since there is a strong interface between matrix and fibers (e.g., Fig. 4b). The fracture proceeds through matrix and fibers. The graphite fiber composites have a curve similar to that of unidirectional composites, where we can detect at first a matrix cracking region, then a region of load transfer to fibers and that of fiber pull-out and finally a fracture region, probably as a result of weak fiber-matrix interface giving fiber pull-out (Figs. 4a and 10).

Comparison of results from Saffil and B-95 Denka [alpha]-[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3] fiber-composites, sintered at temperatures above 1200[degrees]C, shows the effect on AE activity, of fibers having the same chemical composition but different fiber diameter. It must be noted that the Saffil fibers before sintering have a [delta] structure, which is transformed to [alpha]-[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3] after sintering above 1200[degrees]C and the main difference that remains after sintering is the shape and fiber-diameter of the fibers. Comparison of AE from a 9.2 vol.% B-95 [alpha]-[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3]-kaolin composite with that of 9.7% Saffil fiber-kaolin composite specimen, both sintered at 1300[degrees]C, shows about the same AE event rate. It also shows that the B-95 fiber-composites produce a little more cumulative AE events and higher event rate, a fact which justifies the hypothesis that fiber content is directly connected to AE events produced during 3-point bend testing. The difference in fiber diameters (which results in different number of fibers per volume) also affects the AE behavior of the composites. Due to higher range of lengths and diameters, the number of B-95 [alpha]-[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3] fibers is higher compared to that of Saffil fiber composites with the same fiber content and so the number of AE events is higher.

Comparison of results from B-95 alumina and B-80 mullite-fiber composites showed that there is great difference (probably due to the nature, morphology, diameter distribution etc. of the fibers) in the AE behavior, as shown in Figs. 8a and b. Figure 8a exhibits a high AE activity with about 10000 counts with the [Al.sub.2][O.sub.3] fiber-composite sintered at 1300[degrees]C. On the other hand, low AE activity (only about 5% of that of B-95 fiber composite) was measured in the B-80-mullite fiber-kaolin composite (Fig. 8b). The comparatively low AE activity of the B-80 mullite composite (which was observed also at other sintering temperatures as well) is probably due to the fact that B-80 Denka-mullite fibers have a high content of non-fibrous materials confirmed by SEM (appearing as large "shots" in the composite structure), which cannot produce as much AE events at the equivalent amount of fibers.

The kaolin-graphite fiber composites with Grafil fibers belong to a totally different class of ceramic composites with a different fracture mechanism. SEM examination (Fig. 4a) shows there is a weak fiber-matrix interface and the fracture occurs after matrix cracking and fiber pull-out (Fig. 10), which indicates that any AE activity during loading may be due matrix cracking and fiber pull-out.

This fracture mechanism implies a high number of AE events since every matrix fiber pullout could give at least one AE event. However, it must be noted that the graphite fibers have an almost constant diameter of 6.8 urn, which is about double of that of Saffil fibers. This means that Saffil-kaolin composites will contain about twice as much fibers as the Grafil-kaolin composites for the same volume content and consequently it could be proposed that Grafil-composites with double fiber volume fraction could have about the same AE activity to that of Saffil-kaolin composites with half fiber volume fraction. Comparison of AE activity from a 9.7 vol.% Saffil kaolin composite and a 16.5% Grafil-kaolin composite (which have roughly the same number of fibers), both sintered at 1300[degrees]C, shows roughly the same number of events, which means that the above hypothesis could be considered valid.

4. Conclusions

AE activity was increased from kaolin to pottery mixture as a result of developing a stronger structure with incorporation of a second phase in the matrix, while decreased in fly ash composites due to weakening of the structure and formation of cracks. In kaolin ceramics, there was a distinct Kaiser effect, while pottery mixture and the kaolin-fly ash and brick clay composites had high background AE activity during the second loading. Fiber-ceramic-matrix composites indicated that fiber composites present higher AE activity since the matrix sub-critical events, fracture of the fibers, fiber-debonding or fiber pull-out from the matrix may produce a comparatively large amount of AE events. Increase of sintering temperature produced composites with higher AE activity for similar reasons to that of powder ceramics. Increase of the volume fraction of fibers increased the AE activity.

Kaiser effect was observed in all the examined systems indicating "memorization" of the applied load due to the fact that the sub-critical activity during loading is an irreversible process. The second loading AE was almost zero or close to the background level. The low AE activity during the second loading found in kaolin-fly ash and B-80 mullite-fiber composites could be attributed to the presence of large fly ash particles, non-fibrous "shots", etc.

AE examination under loading can give useful information about the strength, structure, sintering techniques used during manufacturing and the "history" of ceramic systems.


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[2.] Tao Fu, Y. Liu, Q. Li, J. Leng, Optics and Lasers in Eng, 47 (10), (2009), 1056-1062

[3.] A.D. Papargyris et al, Proc. 29th EWGAE, 2010, paper 66, Vienna.

[4.] A.D. Papargyris and S.A. Papargyri, J. Applied Clay Science, 18, (2001), 191-204.

[5.] A.D. Papargyris, et al., J. Constr. & Build. Mat., 15, (2001), 361-369.

[6.] A.D. Papargyris, 4th Euro Ceramics, 12, (1995), 131-138.

[7.] A. Lavrov, Int. J. of Rock Mech. & Mining Sci., 40 (2), (2003), 151-171.

[8.] G. G. Zaretskii-Feoktistov and G. N. Tanov, Strength of Materials, 17 (5), (1985) 696-701.


Technological Educational Institute, Larissa, General Department of Applied Science, Materials Technology Laboratory, Nea Ktiria, 41110 Larissa, Greece
Table 1. Chemical composition of ceramic materials.

Chemical compound      Remblend           Pottery        Brick   Fly
weight %               Chinaclay          mixture        clay    Ash

Si[O.sub.2]              48.2              59.7          50.6   34.4
[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3]      37.1              25.5          20.1   19.6
[Fe.sub.2][O.sub.3]       1.0               1.5           6.7    4.1
Ti[O.sub.2]              0.05               1.6           1.2    0.5
CaO                      0.07               3.1           3.8   32.2
MgO                       0.3               0.2           3.4    1.9
[K.sub.2]O                2.0               1.9           3.2    0.7
[Na.sub.2]O               0.1               0.1           2.1    0.4
L.O.I.                   12.1               9.5           9.9    6.0
Mineral phases       83% kaolinite  39% kaolinite
                     13% mica       28.6% lime feldspar
                     2% feldspar    14% quartz
                     2% other       11% potash feldspar
                       minerals     0.8% soda feldspar
                                    6.7% misc. oxides
                                      & organic matter

Table 2. Characteristics of fibers.

Characteristics                     Mullite      Alpha-alumina
                                  short fibers   short fibers
                                   Denka B-80     Denka B-95

Classification temp. [degrees]C       1650           1600
True density, g/[cm.sup.3]            3.3             3.5
Chemmical comp.
[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3]                    80             95
Si[O.sub.2]                            20              5
[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3]+Si[O.sub.2]       99.7           99.7
Other                                 0.3             0.3
Crystallinity ratio
[alpha]-[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3]            5>            30-65
mullite                               50<             5 >
Fiber diameter, [micro]m              2-5             2-5
Strength, MPa                         1670         2000 4480
E, GPa                                167           300 227
Color                                white           white

Characteristics                   Delta-alumina   Graphite PAN
                                  short fibers    short fibers
                                    Saffil RF      Grafil XAS

Classification temp. [degrees]C      > 1000
True density, g/[cm.sup.3]             3.3            1.79
Chemmical comp.
[Al.sub.2][O.sub.3]                   96-97
Si[O.sub.2]                            3-4          graphite
Crystallinity ratio
Fiber diameter, [micro]m           3.4 (1-10)
Strength, MPa
E, GPa
Color                                 white           black
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Article Details
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Author:Papargyri-Mpeni, S.A.; Papargyris, D.A.; Spiliotis, X.; Papargyris, A.D.
Publication:Journal of Acoustic Emission
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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