TPU researchers discover new ceramic properties

Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University discovered a previously unknown physical effect, which significantly expands options to customize the properties of ceramics. The results of the study can be used to develop new types of ceramics with improved performance properties. The study was published in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research.


When irradiating the alumina ceramics with high-energy ion beams, scientists detected a change in its structural properties in the layers below the ion penetration.. A similar phenomenon also known as the long-range effect was previously observed only at metal irradiation.

“We found that structural-phase changes in ceramics occur at depths hundreds of times lower than the penetration depth of ions. There are hot debates on this issue since there is still no clear explanation of this effect,

Sergei Gyngazov, a professor of the TPU Division for Testing and Diagnostics, says.

Ion treatment enables the considerable change in the properties of surface layers up to several tens of microns thick obtaining the so-called “gradient ceramics” as a result. Currently, it is the only effective method for modifying ceramics.

This technology will improve the performance properties of ceramics in various fields, primarily related to industrial catalysis as well as the complex microrelief and gas sensor technology.

Low-intensity ion beams with energies of 50-80 keV tend to be used for ion doping of non-metals, dielectrics and semiconductors. Their processing requires an extremely long time. TPU scientists use high-intensity ions with energy of 180 keV, which cuts the processing time to several seconds or less.

“The currently used radiation treatment has hardly been possible to implement until recent times. However, due to the rapid development of accelerator technology, especially in Russia, the situation has dramatically changed,”

Valeria Kostenko, a co-author and a PhD student of the TPU Research School of High Energy Physics, says.

The authors emphasized that it is close cooperation with the Institute of Nuclear Physics SB RAS and advanced national developers of accelerator equipment, including scientific groups from TPU, Institute of High Current Electronics SB RAS and Institute of Electrophysics UrB RAS that provided the successful research. The development was supported by the grant of the Russian Science Foundation No. 17-19-01082.

The research group will continue studying the effects of heavy ions on ceramics. They believe that that this will give it sustainable conductive properties to be used as high-voltage insulation in accelerators. Researchers have already begun studies in this area at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna.