A low-density clay ceramic syntactic foam (CSF) composite material was successfully synthesized from illitic clay added by fly ash cenospheres (CS) using the semi-dry formation method. The content of CS varied in the range of 10, 30, 50 and 60 vol %. Furthermore, reference samples without cenospheres were produced for property comparison. The materials comprising different amount of the additives were fired at temperatures of 600, 950, 1000, 1050, 1100, 1150 and 1200 °C. Firing times were kept constant at 30 min. Processing characteristics of the materials were evaluated in terms of density achieved and shrinkage observed as functions of both the CS content and the sintering temperature. The compressive strength and water uptake were determined as application-oriented properties. Except for the reference and the low CS level samples, the materials show an increase in strength with the increase in firing temperature, and a decrease of mechanical reliability with a decrease in density, which is typical for porous materials. Exceptions are the samples with no or low (10 vol %) content of cenospheres. In this case, the maximum strength is obtained at an intermediate sintering temperature of 1100 °C. At a low density (1.10 and 1.25 g/cm³), the highest levels of strength are obtained after sintering at 1200 °C. For nominal porosity levels of 50 and 60 vol %, 41 and 26 MPa peak stresses, respectively, are recorded under compressive load.
Keywords: ceramics; clay; composite; fly ash cenosphere; illite clay; mechanical properties; mechanics of materials; semi-dry formation; syntactic foam.