Ceramic microbeads have great potential for use in filtration and extraction, mainly due to their outstanding chemical resistance. This resistance, in combination with a high specific surface area, good pore size, and high mechanical strength make them ideal as a filtration material. However during conventional sintering, a time consuming high-temperature process required to obtain mechanically stable ceramics, the specific surface area of the beads is greatly decreased. This adversely affects the filter material, resulting in a decrease in efficiency.
New work from a team at the University of Bremen describes a simple and versatile rapid tube furnace sintering technique. Their method results in ceramic microbeads with comparable chemical stabilities to conventionally sintered parts, yet exhibiting a significantly improved specific surface area, thus increasing their efficiency in the adsorption of pollutants and uptake of molecules. Additionally, rapid sintering was shown to reduce processing time, from 900 min down to approximately 15 min. These improved properties, as well as the versatile sintering setup, provide promising early steps towards making way for the development of novel and highly efficient microbeads.