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The Electrical Properties of Ceramics

One of the reasons technical ceramics are so versatile is due to their adaptability as a material. Different ceramics bring with them different properties, which makes one better than another depending on the application.

One of the reasons technical ceramics are so versatile is due to their adaptability as a material. Different ceramics bring with them different properties, which makes one better than another depending on the application. However, all technical ceramics have one thing in common; they’re well-used in industrial electrical applications. Yet, they still stand apart when it comes to why each is used.

Technical Ceramics Are Versatile

Is ceramic conductive or is ceramic an insulator? It depends on which material you choose. Technical ceramics are advanced materials and, depending on the material you choose, it will have unique properties that set them apart from others.

Ceramic Electrical Conductivity

While many technical ceramics have low electrical conductivity and resistivity, semi-metallic ceramics can be engineered to have a high rate of electrical conductivity. In cases where you want a ceramic part that is resistant to elevated temperatures, thermal expansion, and has a high degree of hardness but want it to carry a current, then a semi-metallic ceramic is a great option.

Electrical Insulator Ceramic

Certain technical ceramics, especially piezoelectric ceramics (we’ll discuss this later) bring with them the conventional properties of technical ceramics with that of low electrical conductivity. This electrical insulation means they can be used in applications where you do not want a part to affect the regular flow of an electric current.

Ceramics and Magnetism

Ceramics can be supplemented with ferrites, giving them a permanent magnetism known as “ferrimagnetism”. While this type of magnetic ceramic is generally less magnetic than other materials with the same properties, it has a low electrical conductivity, which makes it a useful tool in external memory storage solutions like magnetic tape, floppy disks, and hard disks.

Common Technical Ceramics & Their Properties

The four primary technical ceramics that we manufacture are Alumina, Hexoloy, Zirconia, and Silicon Carbide. They each have unique properties.


With a low relative conductivity, Alumina acts as a great electrical insulator. Alumina is used often in resistors and switches for this reason.


Hexoloy, on the other hand, is a conductive technical ceramic. Hexoloy has often used in electric heaters as well as electrically heated furnaces.


Much like Alumina, Zirconia has a low electrical conductivity but a high ionic conductivity, making it a useful material in automobile o2 sensors.

Silicon Carbide

Both Hexoloy and Silicon Carbide are essentially the same material. Their unique property of electrical conductivity makes them useful in applications where they must conduct a current, such as electrical heating elements.

Common Electrical Applications Of Ceramic

Whether you are looking for conductivity, insulation, or magnetism, technical ceramics can be a pivotal component to your electrical application due to their hardiness and unique custom properties. It really is as simple as picking-and-choosing when it comes to technical ceramics.

Conductive Applications

⦁ Electrodes - an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit
⦁ Resistors - used to reduce current flow, adjust signal levels, to divide voltages, bias active elements, and terminate transmission lines, among other uses
⦁ Heating Elements - converts electrical energy into heat
⦁ Miscellaneous electrical contact applications – any application where you need to conduct electricity but need hardness, heat resistance, and chemical inertness

Insulator Applications

⦁ Spark Plugs – used in the ignition of your vehicle
⦁ Hermetic Packaging – packaging sealed to be "gas-tight" for use in industrial and aerospace settings
⦁ Ceramic Arc Tubes – a type of extremely bright light commonly used in film and photography
⦁ Protective Parts for Power Lines – ceramic insulators the high voltage portion of overhead power lines

Magnetism Applications

⦁ Speaker Magnets – the function of modern speakers require a magnet, often a ferrite magnet made of ceramic to operate
⦁ DC Motors – a ferrite magnet is used in a DC motor to control the motor’s rotation and speed
⦁ Reed Switches – electrical switch operated by the application of a magnetic field created by a ferrite magnet. One common example of a reed switch is the proximity sensor in a security alarm.
⦁ Sweeper Magnet – a high-powered magnet that can be rolled for the purposes of picking up metal pieces, commonly used on roads and on shop floors
⦁ MRIs – “magnetic resonance imaging”, scans a person’s body to take high-resolution photos of their internal organs and anatomy
⦁ Automobile Sensors – magnets are used for many common vehicle features like cruise control, anti-lock brakes, and ignition timing

“Smart” Piezolectric Ceramics

Lastly, piezoelectric ceramics are “smart” electronic ceramics that are being used more and more in energy harvesting technologies like solar power, wind power, and thermal power. These engineered ceramics have high electromechanical coupling properties.

Piezoelectric ceramics have been in use since the 1950s for various ultrasonic applications. Yet, they are finding renewed interest in the industrial sector due to their conductive properties, high hardness, low thermal conductivity, and overall hardiness.

To put it simply, technical ceramics are some of the most versatile materials in the world. They are used in a wide variety of applications with special relevance in electrical applications due to their unique properties as insulators, conductors, and magnetic capabilities.

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