Response of silicon nitride ceramics subject to laser shock treatment

Pratik Shukla, X. Shen, Ric Allott, Klaus Ertel, S. Robertson, R. Crookes, H. Wu, Ann Zammit, Philip Swanson, M. E. Fitzpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


A comprehensive and novel investigation on multiple-layer, square-beam laser shock treatment (“laser peening”) of Si 3N 4 ceramics is reported in this work. Surface topography, hardness, fracture toughness (K Ic), residual stresses, and microstructural changes were investigated. The evaluation of fracture toughness via the Vickers hardness indentation method revealed a reduction in crack lengths produced by the indenter after laser shock treatment (LST). Upon appropriate calculation, this revealed an increase in K IC of 60%. This being attributed to a near-surface (50 μm depth) compressive residual stress measured at −289 MPa. Multiple layer LST also induced beneficial residual stresses to a maximum measured depth of 512 μm. Oxidation was evident, only on the top surface of the ceramic, post LST (<5 μm depth) and was postulated to be due to hydrolyzation. The surface enhancement in K IC and flaw-size reduction was assigned to an elemental change on the surface, whereby, Si 3N 4 was transformed to SiO 2, particularly, with multiple layers of LST. Compressive residual stresses measured in the sub-surface were attributed to mechanical effects (below sub-surface elastic constraint) and corresponding shock-wave response of the Si 3N 4. This work has led to a new mechanistic understanding regarding the response of Si 3N 4 ceramics subject to the LST deployed in this resesrch. The findings are significant because inducing deep compressive residual stresses and corresponding enhancement in surface K IC are important for the enhanced durability in many applications of this ceramic, including cutting tools, hip and knee implants, dental replacements, bullet-proof vests and rocket nozzles in automotive, aerospace, space and biomedical industries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34538-34553
Number of pages16
JournalCeramics International
Issue number24
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Ceramics International. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Ceramics International, 47:24, (2021) DOI: 10.1016/j.ceramint.2021.08.369

© 2021, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


Funding Information: The authors acknowledge use of facilities within the Loughborough Materials Characterization Centre and for access to the Helios PFIB, funded by the EPSRC grant EP/P030599/1 (United Kingdom), and also acknowledges the work being part of the EPSRC laser loan pool grant EP/G03088X/1 (United Kingdom).


  • Laser Peening; ceramics; Silicon Nitride; Strengthening; Residual Stress; Microstructure; Shock Treatment.
  • Strengthening
  • Shock treatment
  • Silicon nitride
  • Ceramics
  • Microstructure
  • Residual stress
  • Laser peening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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