Originally used to make pots for storage and cooking, ceramics have been with mankind for millennia. Archaeologists have discovered sites thousands of years old where pottery was in use. When early man settled down and began farming, pottery was one of the many discoveries with everyday applications. Clay pots were formed by hand and baked in fires to harden after drying. Eventually kilns were built to enable these ancient people to make harder and more durable ceramics.
Because ceramics are so durable, ancient man took the time to explore other uses than for food production and storage. Adobe is one form of ceramics that is used for building homes. Clay mixed with water and straw was baked in the hot sun to form bricks. This is one of the first applications in the building industry with ceramics. It was further used in homes through the use of ceramic tiles. Strong and durable, ceramic tiles could stand up to years of heavy traffic.
Fast forward to modern times and man is still using ceramics. The space shuttle program was a huge victory for those who work in industry, but it was only one small part of the work being done. Scientists have combined many different elements in the search for stronger and more durable ceramics as well as more flexibility in their use. This material can be molded, cast and formed like many other materials such as plastic and steel. It has a longer wear life and is easily identified by the use of ceramic transfers or ceramic decals for labeling purposes.
The Information Age has greatly benefitted by the use of ceramics. Many of the parts inside a computer are insulated with ceramic materials due to its low conductivity. It is used to insulate high-power electrical transmission wires, car engine components, magnetic storage devices, glass for airplanes and microspheres for road signs. The future is wide open for more and more uses as the field of ceramics continues to expand.