Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Industrial kilns, the commercial ovens used to fire bathroom tiles and tableware, operate at temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius. Scientists at ETH Zurich have found a way to manufacture equally strong ceramic pieces at room temperature using pressure instead of heat.
"The manufacturing process is based on the geological process of rock formation," materials scientist Florian Bouville said in a news release.
Bouville and his colleagues combined calcium carbonate nanopowder and water and subjected the material to compaction forces for an hour. The process is called sintering.
"Our work is the first evidence that a piece of ceramic material can be manufactured at room temperature in such a short amount of time and with relatively low pressures," added ETH professor André Studart.
Scientists used a hydraulic press to produce pressurized ceramic sample disks roughly the size of a Swiss franc. Test results, published in the journal Nature Communications, proved the ceramic material is just as strong and resilient as stone and concrete.
Now, researchers are working on ways to scale up the process.
"The challenge is to generate a sufficiently high pressure for the compacting process. Larger workpieces require a correspondingly greater force," said Bouville.
Industrial kilns use large amounts of energy. An alternative, such as the method developed by Bouville and Studart, could make the ceramic production process more efficient and economical.