A ceramic is a material that is neither metallic nor organic. It may be crystalline, glassy or both crystalline and glassy. Ceramics are typically hard and chemically non-reactive and can be formed or densified with heat. Ceramics are more than pottery and dishes: clay, bricks, tiles, glass, and cement are probably the best-known examples. Ceramic materials are used in electronics because, depending on their composition, they may be semiconducting, superconducting, ferroelectric, or an insulator. Ceramics are also used to make objects as diverse as spark plugs, fiber optics, artificial joints, space shuttle tiles, cooktops, race car brakes, micropositioners, chemical sensors, self lubricating bearings, body armor, and skis.
From Digs to Dentistry: Mey Saied, an alumna of the MSE graduate program, used her expertise in ceramics to make better dental crowns while a student here at Maryland. She's also used MSE to study ancient pottery!
Watch a materials video demonstration about ceramics:
Superconductors and Levitation: A superconductor is a material that has no electrical resistance to current flow. A "high" temperature superconductor exhibits this property at liquid nitrogen temperatures (-321°F /-196°C). An important property of superconducting materials is the ability to repel magnetic fields. Placing a magnet above a superconductor will cause the magnet to levitate. Maglev trains make use of this phenomenon, as they are lifted and propelled forward by a magnetic field, free of friction. We can see this effect by placing a magnet atop a superconductor resting in liquid nitrogen. See a movie demonstrating levitation using a superconductor