Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 509–523 | Cite as

Pore structure, porosity and compressive strength of highly porous reaction-bonded silicon nitride ceramics with various grain morphologies

  • Raheleh Nikonam M.Email author
  • Martin D. Pugh
  • Robin A. L. Drew


Complex characteristics of the pores and properties of porous reaction-bonded Si3N4 have been investigated and correlated with the microstructure of Si3N4 grains. Porous ceramics with porosities of ≤ 75 vol% and α-Si3N4 matte grains (α/β phase ratio of 1.5) or α-Si3N4 whiskers (α/β phase ratio of 0.36) were prepared by in situ nitridation of silicon powder. To obtain various microstructures by α → β-phase transformation and grain morphology modification, samples were heat-treated at 1700 °C while embedded in a Si3N4 powder bed containing MgO. By the growth of α-matte or β-Si3N4 grains on the pore walls, highly interconnected structures with spherical cavities and unimodal pore size distributions resulted with d50 ≈ 8.8 µm and ≈ 6.5 µm, respectively. In contrast, α-whiskers grew inside the pore cavities; thus, complex and irregular inter-particle pores appeared which generated an extra peak near d50 ≈ 1 µm forming a bimodal pore size distribution. Compared to the α-matte grains, α-whiskers densified upon heat treatment and produced a large drop in porosity, which resulted in a structure with less interconnectivity. As a consequence of growth of fine β-rods, pore walls became relatively smooth and whisker free; thus, inter-cluster channels were modified to spherical cavities with d50 ≈ 3.7 µm. Samples exhibiting networked whiskers and fine pores or low porosity demonstrated higher compressive strength than the interconnected structures with spherical cavities.



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial assistance provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), with the grant number of 105442-2011.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace EngineeringConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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