TPU Scientists Find Simple Method to Produce Refractory and Robust Silicon Carbide from Sawdust

Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University have developed and patented a simple and cheap method of producing silicon carbide, a superhard and refractory material, from wood waste. This material is used, for instance, in creating protectors in armored cars and bulletproof vests, braking systems of sports cars. The developed method allows rejecting the application of large vacuum chambers, accompanying equipment and great expenses for their preparation. The research findings are published in the Materials Chemistry and Physics academic journal (IF: 4,094; Q1). Journalists of the TASS news agency were more told about the research work of the TPU scientists. 

Nowadays, silicon carbide and other carbides are produced in expensive vacuum chambers where the air is removed for a long time in order to carry out the required reaction with carbon and silicon at the temperature up to 2,500°C.

“We have developed a vacuum-free electric arc method. Using this method, we produce silicon carbide from charcoal. To produce charcoal, pyrolyzed sawdust processed under a very high temperature is used, i.e. it is waste of woodworking industry,” Alexander Pak, Research Fellow of the TPU Research Center - Ecoenergy 4.0, one of the developers, told the journalists.

The TPU scientists’ method allows rejecting the application of expensive vacuum chambers, accompanying equipment and many hours long preparations.

In the machine developed at TPU, the air around the object is ionized, as the result, there is a gas cloud that removes the air and does not allow the charcoal to burn. Then, using a high-power electric arc, the required temperature is reached in seconds producing crystals of silicon carbide.

Unlike the direct alternatives, this method is the most convenient, energy-efficient and fastest what allows reducing the cost of material production.

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Silicon carbide differs by its features such as refractoriness or capability to resist the fire in the open air, as well as infusibility (resistance to high temperatures) and super hardness (high robustness). Silicon carbide is used to produce armor of armored vehicles, bulletproof vests, infusible filters and brake discs in sports cars, for instance, in Bentley, Ferrari and Lamborgini.