ADVANCED ceramic materials that can withstand high temperatures (over 1,500 °C) without degradation or oxidation are needed for applications such as structural parts for motor engines, gas turbines, catalytic heat exchangers and combustion systems1,2. Hard, oxidation-resistant ceramic composites and coatings are also in demand for use on aircraft and spacecraft. Silicon nitride (Si3N4) and silicon nitride/carbide (Si3N4 /SiC) composites are good candidates for such high-temperature applications2,3. Commercial Si3N4 parts can be used in oxidizing environments up to 1,200–1,300 °C (ref. 4), but are oxidized at still higher temperatures. Here we describe the synthesis of a covalent ceramic composite which is resistant to oxidation at temperatures up to 1,600 °C. The composite is formed from an amorphous silicon carbonitride, which crystallizes at high temperature into a composite of α-Si3N4 microcrystals and α-SiC nanocrystals. The oxidation resistance stems from the formation of a passivating surface layer of SiO2 a few micrometres thick.
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Riedel, R., Kleebe, HJ., Schönfelder, H. et al. A covalent micro/nano-composite resistant to high-temperature oxidation. Nature 374, 526–528 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1038/374526a0
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