Silicon carbide polishing approach wins Rudolf Kingslake Award

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Researchers from the PLA University of Science and Technology in China and Osaka University in Japan have been awarded the Rudolf Kingslake Medal and Prize for their research paper describing a new process for polishing and finishing reaction-sintered silicon carbide.

The Rudolf Kingslake Medal and Prize, which was awarded to the authors at the SPIE Optics + Photonics show in San Diego last month, is presented annually to the most noteworthy paper published in the journal Optical Engineering.

Reaction-sintered silicon carbide (RS-SiC) has robust mechanical, chemical, and thermal properties, making it ideal for applications in space telescope systems and as a ceramic material used for the moulds of glass lenses. The smoothing and finishing an RS-SiC surface has proved to be difficult in the past due to the compound’s high level of hardness and chemical inertness. Once an ultra-smooth surface has been achieved, the compound can be further developed and/or promoted for application in the fields of optics and ceramics.

The winning paper entitled ‘Mechanism analysis on finishing of reaction-sintered silicon carbide by combination of water vapour plasma oxidation and ceria slurry polishing’, first published in May, proposes a technique to reduce the difficulty of smoothing and finishing RS-SiC surfaces.

According to the authors of the winning paper, the technique proposes ‘a low-cost, efficient, and simple process... the oxide layer is easy to machine, which can be an attractive technique for the machining of RS-SiC, RB-SiC, HP-SiC, and other SiC products by further development.’

RS-SiC is challenging to fabricate due to its high hardness, chemical durability, and grain structure, according to the associate editor of Optical Engineering, Jessica DeGroote Nelson. ‘The approach described by the authors combines precise chemical and mechanical processes utilising plasma etching and cerium oxide polishing to provide ultrasmooth surfaces on RB-SiC,’ she said, adding that the new approach may also prove beneficial on other types of SiC in the future.

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Research Paper

Research Center for Ultraprecision Science and Technology of Osaka University