Ceramic is a crystalline material, which is inorganic in nature. The name is Greek in origin, and means 'pottery'. Today, the term is commonly used to describe a material used in pottery. The earliest recorded ceramics were the result of various mixtures and base - combinations, including clay. The resultant non-metallic and inorganic solid base is now a common sight in artifacts. The twentieth century witnessed the design of amalgamation of new materials that are still used extensively in the manufacturing of semiconductors. Ceramic engineering, as we know it today, involves state-of-the-art processes. The material is inert and inorganic, with a crystalline oxide base. The resultant product is always brittle, but strong in compression. This material is able to withstand very high temperatures and chemical erosion and survives well even in a strong caustic environment. Traditional raw materials that go into its manufacturing include kaolinite, silicon carbide, tungsten carbide, and aluminum oxide (alumina).
Reflecting on the history of ceramics involves a clear understanding of its two branches, technology and aesthetics. The technology has helped in developing a sophisticated material, over the years, for greater aesthetics. The initial hand-rolled coils took no time to evolve into fuel efficient glazes that were developed in special kilns. The aesthetics of the material developed in parallel to the technological processes involved in the manufacture of the material.
The history of ceramics dates back to about 10,000 BC. Way back then, difficulty in firing techniques did not provide the glaze and gloss now associated with the material. The products, for domestic and commercial purposes, were mold based and featured only simulated basket texture for surface decoration. The mixture of copper, water, and soluble soda, resulted in a technical oddity that was commonly referred to as 'high temperature ceramic' around 5000 BC. Dedicated experiments by the Chinese brought forth porcelain and unique glazes, that the world continues to use for aesthetic appeal even today.
Ceramic was worked upon or molded to requirement, on special potters' wheels designed around 4,000 BC. The crude invention resulted in the more sophisticated powered flywheel, around 3000 BC, in Central and Eastern Asia. By around 1,400 BC, high temperature blasted ceramics were a common sight. The glazes kept getting more and more sophisticated with the use of wood ash, true porcelain, and glass powder. Potters persistently experimented with the material till 700 BC. It was not until 7 AD that elaborate tunnel and climbing kilns changed the look of the material in the Kaolin region of China. The art of manufacturing the base material and products is an integral part of Mediterranean history too.
There are different types of ceramic based products manufactured for domestic, industrial, and commercial purposes. The versatility of the product generates high quality pipes, bricks, roof and flooring materials, used for various structural purposes. Gas fire radiants, kiln linings, and crucibles, made from this material, meet the exclusive requirements of refractories. Ceramic tableware, pottery products, and sanitary ware, are a common sight in homes across the globe. In the industrial sector, it is used in the manufacturing of gas burner nozzles and ballistic protection equipment, bio-medical implants, uranium oxide pellets, and nose cones used in the manufacturing of missiles.