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Silicon Nitride: What Is It?

Silicon nitride (Si3N4) was first prepared in 1857 and was little more than a chemical curiosity. However, as its benefits became known, the compound began to be used across multiple industries in the late 1940s. Today, it’s a key component in electronics, turbomachinery, bearings, and even orbital satellites.

silicon nitride pad

What Makes it Different?

Silicon nitride is made by mixing highly refined raw powders that are formed into desired shapes. The final product is finished in precision kilns or furnaces. This is similar to the making of pottery; the word “ceramic” derives from the Greek root “kéramos,” which refers to pottery. Dense silicon nitride is a very hard, abrasion-resistant, and corrosion-resistant solid. Unlike familiar ceramics such as porcelain or glass, silicon nitride ceramic has very high strength, with the highest fracture resistance of any advanced ceramic42.

Top Applications

Due to silicon nitride’s exceptionally high strength and toughness, it’s used in many applications and industries, including biomedical, bearing, aerospace and high temperature applications.
 
  • Biomedical

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    Biomedical

    Silicon nitride is a valuable material for spinal implants and prosthetic replacements for hip and knee joints, with demonstrated antibacterial and osseointegrative properties to support bone formation.
  • Cutting tools

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    Cutting tools

    Silicon nitride can cut cast iron, hard steel, and nickel-based alloys with surface speeds up to 25 times faster than conventional machining materials such as tungsten carbide.
  • Automotive

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    Automotive

    Silicon nitride is used throughout the automotive industry in engine parts and engine accessory units. Because of its durability and thermal resistance, it can extend contact fatigue life.
  • Energy

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    Energy

    Silicon nitride can withstand the high temperatures and corrosive environments found in solar cells, fuel cells, and other energy applications.
  • Aerospace

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    Aerospace

    Silicon nitride’s strength, lightness, and ability to withstand and perform at high temperatures have made it the material of choice for various aerospace applications.
  • Antipathogenic

    Antipathogenic

    SINTX has developed a silicon nitride powder, called FleX SN-AP (Silicon Nitride Antipathogenic Powder), that is being evaluated as an additive, coating, or composite, used to impart, or enhance antipathogenic properties on a variety of medical and non-medical products.
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