Structural ceramics: fundamentals and case studies

Structural ceramics: fundamentals and case studies 

F L Riley

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2009 | 405pp | ?45.00 (HB)

ISBN 9780521845861 Reviewed by Julian Evans

To appreciate the role of this book we must recognise that the number of materials science graduates from British universities has been declining over the past three decades, yet the need for materials research to sustain economic growth remains. Ceramics is one area where those with first degrees in related subjects, most notably chemistry, will need to take on the mantle. This demands a widening of awareness and a departure from comfort zones.


Ceramic properties do not depend entirely upon the strength of the chemical bond but upon a range of defects from atomic to millimetre scale. The electrical and high temperature mechanical properties of a ceramic can be almost wholly controlled by a minor impurity segregated to grain boundaries.

Frank Riley provides a gentle transition from almost any scientific or engineering foundation into ceramic science, patiently relieving the reader of intuitive expectations that they might bring with them and cautiously leading them into the multiscale complexity of structure-property relationships.

The approach he uses is to give a 60-page introduction to ceramic compositions, powders, sintering and the dependence of properties on structure. He then imparts the rest of the subject through five chapters, each of which explores an established family of materials; industrial porcelains, aluminas, silicon carbides, silicon nitrides and zirconias.

Each chapter offers between 80 and 200 references and abundant photographs of ceramic products. This is important because industrial ceramic components are generally hidden away inside equipment. This delivery method works because it provides intellectual integration of theory, observed microstructure and properties; unification that is otherwise only achieved through working with ceramics.

This book is therefore a vehicle that entices the reader into ceramic science from almost any starting point by the judicious combination of theory and practice, mediated by the study of five of the most industrially important classes of ceramic.