The article on "ceramic steel" among the top downloaded papers

13 May, 2020

The UniTS study on the so-called "ceramic steel" is having great resonance. The paper "Fourty years after the promise of « ceramic steel? »: Zirconia-based composites with a metal-like mechanical behavior", co-authored by prof. Valter Sergo and prof. Vanni Lughi of the Department of Engineering and Architecture, appeared as invited featured article (and was selected for the cover) of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

Published online in late November 2019 as the result of a long-lasting collaboration started within the European FP7 "Longlife" project, in just over a month the paper has reached a number of downloads that places it at the top of the ranking among all the articles published in the Journal in 2018 and 2019, demonstrating the significant impact of this research.

The study describes the behavior of a new class of ceramic materials based on zirconium oxide added with cerium oxide. Thanks to a particular mechanism called "transformation toughening" the typical fragility of ceramic materials is considerably reduced, leading to a much greater tolerance to defects and repeatability of the strength values. The practical consequence is the unprecedented reliability of this class of materials, which in fact eliminates its main Achilles heel.

The intuition that this transformation mechanism could make ceramic materials much tougher, opening fields of application previously limited to metals only, originates forty years ago - as the title of the paper implies. The materials engineering school of the University of Trieste had already contributed significantly in the past to the development of this concept.

That historical intuition is now at a turning point thanks to the finely engineered structure of the material at the microscopic scale described in this new study, which effectively expands the possibility of increasingly applying ceramic materials also in the field of prosthetics, dental implants and 3D printing.


Vanni Lughi, PhD
Associate Professor of Materials
Vanni Lughi personal webpage
nanoMaterials & Energy Laboratory – naME Lab
Department of Engineering and Architecture
University of Trieste
Tel. (+39) 040 558 3769

Valter Sergo, professor
Department of Engineering and Architecture
University of Trieste
Adjunct professor
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Macau, Macau SAR, China
tel. +39 040 558 3702