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Zirconia: The Toughest Ceramic

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'Partially stabilized zirconia' (or PSZ) is a new development in industrial ceramics and is probably the toughest ceramic ever made.

Developed by researchers at CSIRO's Division of Materials Science, PSZ has a number of unique properties which make it suitable for a variety of engineering applications. It is highly resistant to thermal shock and, if its surface is damaged by a process such as grinding, it actually gets tougher due to changes in molecular structure.

One exciting application for PSZ is in internal combustion engines. Because of their higher operating temperatures, PSZ engines would be much more fuel-efficient than conventional engines. Some estimates say they would use 65 per cent less fuel.

Produced in 1982.

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1:00:52 | The Researchers logo
1:01:03 | Title over decorated ancient Greek pot
1:01:06 | Various ancient Greek pots
1:01:17 | Pottery today, decorating pot, potter forming pot using wheel
1:01:25 | Manufacturing electrical insulators, machine trimming, stacking and storing
1:01:33 | Measuring components made from partially stabilised Zirconia (PSZ) with micrometer
1:01:48 | Scanning electron microscope and images on computer screen
1:01:58 | Microscope views of PSZ surfaces
1:02:09 | Untreated sample of PSZ dipped into molten aluminium, explodes, compared with heat treated sample emerging intact from the molten aluminium
1:02:33 | Men examining zircon sand
1:02:44 | Processing - water running through machinery, sand truck outside processing plant
1:02:49 | Sand pouring into truck
1:02:52 | Manufacturing PSZ products - chemicals added to drum, drum rotates
1:03:07 | Machining products pieces in lathe
1:03:10 | Various PSZ pieces stacked in kiln;
1:03:15 | Firing PSZ pieces in kiln, operating controls
1:03:31 | Operator grinding pieces - CU grinding process
1:03:41 | Die being placed in metal extruder
1:03:52 | Tony Wingrove - Plant Manager Nilsen Sintered Products - discusses Zirconia dies used for extrusion
1:04:12 | Extrusion processing, red hot steel bar placed on conveyor belt, going through extrusion machine, extruded rod emerging
1:04:34 | Interior Laboratory - CSIRO Division of Materials Science
1:04:38 | Interview Dr. Mike Murray
1:04:52 | Cutaway of diesel engine. Animated graphics - diesel engine running showing components which would benefit from being made of PSZ
1:05:27 | Trucks crossing level crossing, diesel locomotive passing, container driven on wharf, ships engine room, train
1:05:48 | Montage sand, manufacture, laboratory research shots
1:06:14 | End
1:08:38 | High angle view sand mine - on North Stradbroke Island