Ceramics are inorganic, nonmetallic materials with crystalline or partly crystalline structures formed by high temperatures. The earliest ceramics were clays that were made into pottery and tiles. The more modern versions include silicon carbide and boron nitride, and are used pretty much everywhere for pretty much everything, from engine heat shields to artificial bone to magnets. Ceramics seem to be especially big in cars:
- The EEStor's new ceramic ultracapacitor will, if it works as promised, make electric vehicles commercially viable.
- Ceramic brakes that weigh 5 pounds each versus 20 to 30 pounds for old-style cast iron brakes are now commonly offered on high-end sports cars and will soon work their way down to midrange cars.
- Illinois-based Corning recently introduced a next-generation ceramic substrate for vehicle catalytic converters that is lighter than existing substrates, leading, according to the company, to "reduced fuel consumption and increased engine power through low exhaust system back pressure."
- German conglomerate Evonik Industries makes a ceramic separator that fits between the electrodes of next-generation lithium-ion plug-in hybrid batteries. The ceramic material has a higher melting point and greater mechanical strength than existing separators, which, according to Evonik, gives batteries longer life and enhanced safety, both crucial for plug-in hybrids.