Journal of the European Ceramic Society vol:25 issue:1 pages:55-63
Yttria-stabilised zirconia (Y-TZP) based composites with a tungsten carbide (WC) content up to 50 vol.% were prepared from nanopowders by means of conventional hot pressing. The mechanical properties were investigated as a function of the WC content. The hardness increased from 12.3 GPa for pure Y-TZP up to 16.4 GPa for the composite with 50 vol.% WC, whereas the bending strength reached a maximum of 1551 MPa for the 20 vol.% WC composite. The toughness of the composites could be optimised by judicious adjustment of the overall yttria content by mixing monoclinic and 3 mol% Y2O3 co-precipitated ZrO2 starting powders. An optimum fracture toughness of 9 MPa m(1/2) was obtained for a 40% WC composite with an overall yttria content of 2 mol%. The hardness, strength as well as fracture toughness of the ultrafine grained composites with a nanosized WC source was significantly higher than with micron-sized WC. The experimentally measured contribution of the different observed toughening mechanisms was evaluated as a function of the WC content. Transformation toughening was found to be the major toughening mechanism in ZrO2-WC composites with up to 30 vol.% WC, whereas the contribution of crack deflection and bridging is significant at a secondary phase content above 30 vol.%. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.