A refractory refers to a material that is non-metallic that can withstand both extreme temperatures, as well as the strange physical reactions that occur with extreme temperatures. These materials must be tough, durable and able to withstand a variety of conditions that most elements cannot handle. In addition to extreme heat, refractories must also be able to withstand harsh, acidic environments that are unfriendly to durability.
One of the key features that makes a refractory material, well, qualify as such, is that it must be able to handle acidic environments and it must also be able to withstand temperatures in excess of one thousand degrees Fahrenheit on a continuous, regular basis. Not many materials can handle such extremes. Those that can are typically manmade, though some do occur naturally. Minerals like dolomite, zirconia and bauxite are just a few examples of materials used to make refractories.
WHAT IS A REFRACTORY USED FOR?
Due to their ability to refract and absorb large amounts of heat, while also able to handle harsh, acidic environments, they are commonly used as the lining in nuclear reactors and other power generation facilities. Manufacturing equipment that requires intense heat also use refractories. The lining of one’s home fireplace also contains refractories. These are designed to keep the heat contained within a given space, keeping buildings and people safe. Refractories are even used in high speed air craft and space craft as they are some of the only materials that can withstand the conditions of high altitude and speed or incredibly high temperatures and pressure.
WHAT TYPES OF REFRACTORIES ARE THERE?
There are three basic types of refractories which denote the types of materials they are made of and the types of environments and jobs they are designed to handle.
Basic refractories are designed to be used in and withstand the needs of environments that are basic in nature. Meaning that fall somewhere on the base side of the acidic/basic spectrum. Commonly used materials for basic refractories include dolomite.
Acidic refractories are designed to be used in acidic environments and built to withstand the harsh elements that these environments contain. Commonly used materials for acidic refractories include zirconia.
These are refractories designed for environments of stability that and contain both acidic and basic elements that are in balance in terms of atmospheric composition. Commonly used materials in neutral refractories include carbon.
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Refractories are important elements of high heat and acidic protection. This is why keeps our fireplaces safe, protects our power plants and even protects spaceship from the heat and extremes of liftoff and reentry. These materials are tough and able to withstand extremes that most materials simply cannot. Formed into bricks or molded into others shapes, refractories are used in the linings of many different high heat devices to protect the workers and equipment.