Ceramic (Encyclopedia of Science)
Ceramic is a hard, brittle substance that resists heat and corrosion and is made by heating a nonmetallic mineral or clay at an extremely high temperature. The word ceramic comes from the Greek word for burnt material, keramos. Ceramics are used to produce pottery, porcelain, china, and ceramic tile. They may also be found in cement, glass, plumbing and construction materials, and spacecraft components.
The basic ingredient in all forms of ceramics are silicates, the main rock-forming minerals. Most silicates are composed of at least one type of metal combined with silicon and oxygen. Feldspar and silica are example of silicates. When silicates are combined with a liquid such as water, they form a mixture that can be kneaded and shaped into any form. After shaping, the object is dried and fired in a high-temperature oven called a kiln. A glaze (a glasslike substance that makes a surface glossy and watertight) may be added between drying and firing. From ancient days to the present, this process has remained virtually the same, except for the addition of mechanical aids.
The oldest examples of pottery, found in Moravia (a region of the Czech Republic) and dating back to 25,000 B.C., are animal shapes made of fired clay. Potter's wheels and kilns first appeared in Mesopotamia (an ancient region in southwest Asia) around 3000 B.C....
(The entire section is 554 words.)
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