Evaluation of Silicon-Nitride Ceramic Valves
Silicon-nitride ceramic valves can improve the performance of both light- and heavy-duty automotive engines because of the superior material properties of silicon nitrides over current metal alloys. However, ceramics are brittle materials that may introduce uncertainties in the reliability and durability of ceramic valves. As a result, the lifetime of ceramic valves are difficult to predict theoretically due to wide variations in the type and distribution of microstructural flaws in the material. Nondestructive evaluation (NDE) methods are therefore required to assess the quality and reliability of these valves. Because ceramic materials are optically translucent and the strength-limiting flaws are normally located near the valve surface, a laser-scatter method can be used for NDE evaluation of ceramic valves. This paper reviews the progress in the development of this NDE method and its application to inspect silicon-nitride ceramic valves at various stages of manufacturing and bench and engine tests.
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