Ceramics have applications in virtually any industry which demands the use of heat-resistant materials. The multibillion-dollar ceramic industry converts processed materials and raw materials taken directly from the earth (clay, sand, etc.) into useful products such as spark plugs, glass, electronic components, nuclear materials, abrasives, rocket components, and even tableware. High-temperature processing is the key to these conversions.
What’s this career about?
Ceramic engineers work with inorganic, non-metallic materials to develop materials that support products and systems that impact all our lives. They may create materials that repair human bone with bio-glasses, treat cancer, power the internet via fibre-optic cables, and provide environmentally friendly coatings for the aerospace industry. They may also develop exterior tiles for the next Space Station, cathodes for fuel cells, conductive ceramics used in microprocessors and solar panels, flexible prosthetics for Paralympic athletes, or lenses in night-vision goggles for pilots.
Using basic principles from chemistry and physics, ceramic engineers first understand how to design new materials at the atomic level, then process these materials into useful forms. They deal with the study of the properties, manufacture, design and applications of ceramic materials. They are mainly involved in research and development, quality check and quality control.
Research work involves the study and application of chemical and thermal interactions of oxides which make ceramics. These engineers create procedures for processing non-metallic inorganic materials into a variety of ceramic products. They may also assist in developing materials that support aircraft engines functioning at high temperatures. They may also discover innovative uses of ceramics to strengthen infrastructure by building highways and bridges.
Those in production are involved in the production of advanced heat tiles for various purposes. Mostly this includes application of heat or withdrawal of heat and precipitation reaction from high purity solution. They may have to spend more time at production or construction sites, and work overtime or in rotating shifts. Engineers may have extensive responsibilities such as preparing labour cost analyses or troubleshooting problems.
- How do I get there?
- Key skills
- Institutes offering Ceramic Engineering
- Employment prospects and pay packages
Dr Vibha Gupta, a feature writer, is a Ph.D. in Mathematics from IIT Roorkee. Her book Careers: A Pathfinder and articles in various publications are an attempt to guide students in choosing a career according to their natural strengths, talents and skills.