Robert Ritchie and Hrishikesh Bale

Robert Ritchie, materials science and engineering professor, and Hrishikesh Bale, postdoctoral researcher. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

A hot spot

Much like your standard earthenware coffee mug, today’s advanced ceramics are renowned for their ability to resist damage from heat. However, these materials can also be brittle and prone to cracking, limiting their applications. Hoping to optimize their usage and safety, researchers, led by materials science and engineering professor Robert Ritchie, have created the first facility where scientists can test ceramic composites at ultrahigh temperatures and examine them with a real-time CT scan. Their mechanical testing rig can subject these materials to temperatures up to 1,750 degrees Celsius, while allowing scientists to view microcracks and evaluate a material’s risk of structural or mechanical failure. Researchers anticipate this will lead to future advances in the technological innovation of ceramic composites to be used in jet engines and other applications.


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