In a flash

Flash spark plasma sintering is a new technique developed by scientists at the US Department of Energy for making ceramics. In this new process, incredibly hard ceramics can be formed without losing microstructural features and so retaining important properties. The technique uses pressure to preclude damaging thermal runaway during sintering and has been shown to work with superhard silicon carbide. The process used sacrificial dies to heat pre-compacted SiC powder specimens to a critical temperature before applying voltage to the powder volume for sintering. Scanning electron microscopy shows how densification takes place almost instantaneously with limited grain growth.