Alumina-doped zirconia submicro-particles : synthesis, thermal stability, and microstructural characterization
Zirconia nanoceramics are interesting materials for numerous high-temperature applications. Because their beneficial properties are mainly governed by the crystal and microstructure, it is essential to understand and control these features. The use of co-stabilizing agents in the sol-gel synthesis of zirconia submicro-particles should provide an effective tool for adjusting the particles’ size and shape. Furthermore, alumina-doping is expected to enhance the particles’ size and shape persistence at high temperatures, similar to what is observed in corresponding bulk ceramics. Dispersed alumina should inhibit grain growth by forming diffusion barriers, additionally impeding the martensitic phase transformation in zirconia grains. Here, alumina-doped zirconia particles with sphere-like shape and average diameters of 300 nm were synthesized using a modified sol-gel route employing icosanoic acid and hydroxypropyl cellulose as stabilizing agents. The particles were annealed at temperatures between 800 and 1200 degree Celsius and characterized by electron microscopy, elemental analysis, and X-ray diffraction. Complementary elemental analyses confirmed the precise control over the alumina content (0–50 mol%) in the final product. Annealed alumina-doped particles showed more pronounced shape persistence after annealing at 1000 degree Celsius than undoped particles. Quantitative phase analyses revealed an increased stabilization of the tetragonal/cubic zirconia phase and a reduced grain growth with increasing alumina content. Elemental mapping indicated pronounced alumina segregation near the grain boundaries during annealing.
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