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Nanoceramics and their composites: processing by field assisted sintering technology (NACER)

Research project P2/07 (Research action P2)

Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  VAN DER BIEST Omer - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/12/2009
  • Dr.  CAMBIER Francis - Institut Interuniversitaire des Silicates, sols et Matériaux (INISMA)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/12/2009
  • Dr.  CAMBIER Frédéric - Centre de Rech. S&T de l'Industrie des Fabrications Métal. (CRIF)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2006-31/12/2009

Description :


Ceramic materials with a fine nanostructure promise unusual combinations of properties. With respect to their mechanical properties one seeks an improved compromise between hardness and toughness. Coupled with their excellent chemical resistance, new applications will become possible where this combination of properties determines the choice of material required.

Project description


The scientific goal of the NACER project is to build on the experience and knowledge in the partnership to obtain the most advanced nanostructured ceramics and ceramic composites in close collaboration with interested Belgian industry.


The process starts with the synthesis of powders with particles in the range 10 to 100 nm. To prepare objects in bulk from nanopowders, the powders will be formed into the desired shape using colloidal techniques based on suspensions. These lead to more homogeneous microstructures and also they will make for safer handling of the nanopowders. After shaping one needs to eliminate the pores between particles by heating to high temperatures in a process which is generically called sintering. A major challenge is to retain the nanostructure by minimising other high temperature processes competing with sintering such as grain growth, which tend to destroy the nanostructure. Field assisted sintering technology (FAST) also known as spark plasma sintering (SPS) or pulsed electric current sintering (PECS) is one of only a few techniques which have the potential to meet this challenge.
Materials envisaged to be investigated will be non-oxides (carbides, nitrides) as well as oxide nanoceramics and their composites.

Interaction between the different partners

CRIF/Liège has a plasma reactor to fabricate nanopowders in large quantities.
As a result of a European project, a FAST apparatus has become available at the University of Leuven and advanced models have been developed for the temperature and current distributions during the process. Modelling the process to improve control is an important part of the technology.
The INISMa in Mons is expert in specialised characterisation techniques of nanoceramics in powder or in bulk form. INISMa will be expected to deliver the necessary property data for modelling as well as to measure the functional properties of the ceramics and composites processed from the nanopowders.

Link with national and international programmes

The three partners are active in regional and European projects on nano-materials and nano-composites.


Expected results and/or products

Targeted applications of this generic technology include wear resistant nanostructured materials for tools of various kinds, in particular cutting tools, tools for metal and glass processing; clinical biomaterials subject to wear; the development of multi-scale porous materials, materials for space mirrors based on silicon carbide.

Contribution of the project in a context of support to innovation and transfer of knowledge

The work plan includes case studies driven by the industrial members of the follow-up committee.



The ceramics research at the Department MTM, KULeuven, is organised within three main areas: synthesis and processing of ceramic materials and their composites, functional properties of ceramic materials, and modelling of processing and behaviour of ceramics.
The INISMa (Institut Interuniversitaire des Silicates, Sols et Matériaux) is a non profit organisation created in 1973 by FPMs, UMH, IDEA and a group of industrial companies in order to carry out Research and Development and tests in the field of advanced materials, soils and environment.
CRIF-Wallonie is a department of CRIF-WTCM. The driving lines for competence and service development derive from the department’s function to support industrial innovation and competitiveness through the use of innovative materials and production technologies.

Contact Information


Omer Van Der Biest
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven)
Department MTM
Kasteelpark Arenberg 44
B 3001 Heverlee (Leuven)
Tel: +32 (0)16 321264
Fax: +32 (0)16 321992


Francis Cambier
Institut National Interuniversitaire des Silicates, Sols et Matériaux (INISMa)
Avenue Gouverneur Cornez 4
B-7000 Mons
Tel :+32 (0)65 40 34 21
Fax :+32 (0)65 40 34 58

Frederik Cambier
Centre de Recherches scientifiques et techniques de l’Industrie
des Fabrications métalliques (CRIF)
Rue du Bois Saint-Jean
B-4102 Seraing
Tel :+32 (0)43 61 87 60
Fax :+32 (0)43 61 87 02

Follow-up Committee

Stijn Put - Umicore
Anneleen Desmet - Bekaert
Wolfgang Böhlke - Ceratizit
Bill Colin - AMOS
Pierre Gloesener - AMOS
Laurent Tordella - AMOS
Etienne Botman - Eb.Consult
Alain Gillin - MRW – DGTRE
Lieve De Doncker - IWT
Jean Jadot - Magotteaux
Hubert François - Magotteaux
Valerie Sillen - Halliburton
Ides De Vos - Halliburton
Etienne Lamine - Diarotech

Documentation :

Nano-ceramic materials and their composites: Processing by field assisted sintering technology : final report    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2010 (SP2221)
[To download]  [To order

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