Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Rishi Raj

Second Advisor

Charles Musgrave

Third Advisor

Se-Hee Lee

Fourth Advisor

Todd Murray

Fifth Advisor

Gregory Rieker


In 2010, Cologna et. al. [1] reported that with a help of small electric field 120 Vcm-1, the sintering temperature of 3 mol % yittria stabilized zirconia could be brought down to 850°C from 1450°C. On top of reducing the temperature requirements, the green sample could be sintered from starting density of 50% to near full density in mere 5 seconds, a sintering rate three orders of magnitude higher than conventional methods. This discovery led to the emergence of a new field of enhanced sintering with electric field, named "Flash Sintering".

The objective of this thesis is to understand the phenomenological behavior of flash-sintering and related phenomena on titania and its composites with alumina at elevated temperature. The possible mechanisms to explain flash sintering are discussed: Joule heating and the avalanche of defect generation [2], both induced by the rapid rise in conductivity just before the onset of the flash. Apparently, both mechanisms play a role.

The thesis covers the response of pure titania and composites of titania-alumina under flash and compared with conventional sintering.

We start with the sintering behavior of pure titania and observe lowering of sintering temperature requirements with higher applied electric field. The conductivity of titania during flash is also measured, and compared with the nominal conductivity of titania at equivalent temperatures. The conductivity during flash is determined to be have a different activation energy.

For the composites of titania-alumina, effect of flash on the constrained sintering was studied. It is a known fact that sintering of one component of composite slows down when the other component of a different densification rate is added to it, called constrained sintering. In our case, large inclusions of alumina particles were added to nano-grained titania green compact that hindered its densification. Flash sintering was found to be overcoming this problem and near full densification was achieved.

In another experiment, effect of high current density and hold time under flash on the chemical reaction (phase transformation) of titania and alumina to form Al2TiO5 is studied. It was found that not only flash enhances the kinetics of reaction when compared with conventional heating at equivalent temperatures, but also brought down the phase transformation temperature for this spinel formation, as reported by the phase diagram.

In-situ X-ray diffraction experiments were performed at the synchrotron facility in Argonne National Laboratory. The specimen temperature were measured during the experiment on the basis of peak shift with temperature and were found to be matching with our predicted values by Black-Body-Radiation model. We also observed the instant evolution of texture in grain orientation of pure titania under flash and their disappearance as the fields were switched off. Study on chemical kinetics between titania and alumina were also performed which supported our findings of in-house experiments.