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Y-TZP Reinforced with Carbon Nanotubes: Synthesis, Microstructure and Flexural

Lucas Hian da Silva, Renan Belli, Dolores Ribeiro Ricci Lazar, Rubens Nisie Tango, Ulrich Lohbauer, Paulo
Francisco Cesar.

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of carbon nanotube (CNT) reinforcements on the
microstructure and flexural strength of yttria-stabilized tetragonal zirconia polycrystal (Y-TZP).
Initially, CNT were coated with zirconium oxide and yttrium oxide particles to form a powder (CNT/ZYO)
using the hydrothermal synthesis process to facilitate dispersion within the Y-TZP matrix. The final
composite powder consisted of 99 vol% of Y-TZP and 1 vol% of CNT/ZYO. TEM and SEM analyzes were
performed for three powders: a) CNT/ZYO, b) Commercial Y-TZP (Tosoh Co. TZ-3Y-E) and c) Y-
TZP+CNT/ZYO. According to ISO 6872, five bar-shaped specimens (25.0 x 4.0 x 3.0 mm) were prepared for
Y-TZP and Y-TZP+CNT/ZYO (n=5) from partially sintered blocks fabricated by uniaxial pressing. After
sintering in argon atmosphere, specimens were submitted to 4-point flexural strength testing and SEM
microstructural analysis of the fractured surfaces. The flexural strength data were submitted to t-Student
test (=0.05).
The qualitative analysis of the CNT/ZYO powder showed that CNT coating with zirconium oxide and
yttrium oxide was successfully achieved by the hydrothermal synthesis process. Although the
hydrothermal synthesis resulted in nanometer scale particles, it was also possible to note some larger,
micrometric particles within the powder, as well as particle agglomerates. A similar variation in particle
size and agglomeration were observed for the Y-TZP+CNT/ZYO powder. The commercial Y-TZP powder
showed the best quality, with all particles within nanometer scale. A significantly (p=0.003) greater
flexural strength was obtained for Y-TZP (623.7 108.8 MPa) compared to that of the composite Y-
TZP+CNT/ZYO (299.4 30.5 MPa). The fracture surface analysis showed high pores contents and CNT
agglomeration in the Y-TZP matrix for the Y-TZP+CNT/ZYO.
The process of Y-TZP reinforcement with CNT proved to be feasible, since it was possible to observe the
presence of CNT in the Y-TZP matrix. The larger and agglomerated Y-TZP particles obtained by
hydrothermal synthesis, the CNT agglomerates and the pores seemed to act as defective sites in the
investigated material. Future studies should focus on improving CNT dispersion and the coating process,
in order to improve the mechanical properties of the resulting composite.