Microstructure and mechanical properties of synthetic opal: A chemically bonded ceramic

Thomas C. Simonton, Rustum Roy, Sridhar Komarneni, Else Breval, Sridhar Komarneni

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21 Scopus citations


Among chemically bonded ceramics (i.e., those not utilizing thermally activated diffusion for bonding) the French synthetic opal gilsonite provides an excellent existence theorem. By using optical, scanning, and electron microscopy techniques and x-ray, chemical, and differential thermal analyses, it is shown for the first time that the synthetic opal is composed of two separate phases: noncrystalline silica and crystalline (tetragonal) zirconia balls. The zirconia balls with sizes ranging from 7–50 nm appear to be present in an extraordinary regular “lattice” in the void spaces of the silica “balls” of mean size 200 nm. A comparison of the fracture toughness, KIC, data for the gilsonite and natural opal shows that the former is significantly tougher than the latter. The KICvalues for gilsonite fall between those of the Corning 0337 Glass Ceramic and Wesgo Al-500 alumina, showing that surprisingly tough ceramics can be made near room temperature by resorting to chemical bonding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-674
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Materials Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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