Controlling current flow in sintering: A facile method coupling flash with spark plasma sintering

Rev Sci Instrum. 2020 Jan 1;91(1):015112. doi: 10.1063/1.5119059.


A facile method is described to couple flash sintering (FS) and spark plasma sintering (SPS). Flash spark plasma sintering (FSPS) combines advantages of both techniques: the use of pellet-shaped samples under mechanical load with the controlled passage of electric current through the sample. FSPS is realized by partially replacing graphite pressing tools (two punches and one matrix) used in standard SPS. An insulating boron nitride matrix substitutes the conducting graphite matrix to force the electric current through the sample. Additionally, external heating of the boron nitride matrix is implemented. Microstructures of standard and flash-SPS are compared using aluminum doped zinc oxide as an example. Scanning electron microscopy reveals that different microstructures are generated for SPS and FSPS. The new setups provide novel processing routes for different current sintering methods of materials under mechanical load and assist in identifying the role of the electric current or field in the microstructure.