Finalist of the category: Exceptional young scientist in Slovakia under the age of 35

Tamás Csanádi

Development of structural ceramics

„Developing new materials can not only improve industry, but also our daily lives.“

"Ceramics could be a great alternative to metals - but we need to figure out how to improve its deformation behaviour."

Ceramics are generally known as brittle and fragile materials and therefore, are with limited applications as structural materials. However, when compared to metals, advanced structural ceramics are much harder and more wear-resistant and heat-resistant and, thus, are widely used in the industry. Dr. Tamás Csanádi, from the Institute of Materials Research of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Košice, investigates their deformation behaviour at the micro/nano scale in order to develop novel advanced structural ceramics with improved deformability/plasticity, which could make them more reliable. Thus, these ceramics could become an alternative to metals one day, but with higher melting point, hardness and strength.

The new structural ceramics could improve the quality and lifetime of many metal-based machines or, such as ultra-high temperature ceramics, could be used as a protective layer for materials that are exposed to extremely high temperatures (more than 2000°C), of which metallic materials cannot withstand. "However, unlike metals, it is not possible to predict when and where ceramics will break and cause failure. For this reason, it would be very risky , for example, to build a car engine entirely from ceramics. However, if we can make them more ductile and plastic, they will not break immediately, but will rather deform (bend or compress) first, which would give us a chance to replace the deformed parts, "says Tamás Csanádi.

One of his greatest discoveries is that on a microscopic scale at the level of the grains, ceramics can deform plastically. "Micro/nanomechanical testing has shown that ceramics are not as brittle as we used to think. Ceramic grains can deform before they fracture. However, we have to figure out how to implement this behaviour on a larger scale, so that we can start producing more ductile ceramics of the desired size."

He began his doctoral studies at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, and continued his research at the Institute of Materials Research of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Košice. His supervisor, Professor Ján Dusza, shared similar views with him, giving him plenty of freedom and space for his own research. As part of his doctoral studies, Tamás Csanádi also collaborated with Professor Michael Reece from Queen Mary University in London. The main subject of their research was the development of ultra-high temperature ceramics designed for extreme conditions (above 2000 °C), which can be used as a heat-protective layer for hypersonic vehicles.

“They produced a sample of zirconium-diboride and I performed micro/nanomechanical testing to understand the deformation behaviour of its grains. In 2018 first in the world, our collaboration led to the development of a novel group of materials, so-called high-entropy carbides, which possess better mechanical performance (for example higher hardness) than that of the traditional carbides,”says Tamás Csanádi, adding that he continues to work with Professor M. Reece.

In his free time, he likes to work out, go jogging and hiking, and play board games with his family.