The key difference between zirconia and porcelain is that zirconia is zirconium dioxide, whereas porcelain is a mixture of metals and nonmetals.
Zirconia is an oxide of metal (zirconium metal). Earlier, it was used as the material to produce ceramics. Typically, zirconia is stronger than porcelain. However, most of the ceramic materials made nowadays are made of porcelain because porcelain can be obtained more easily.
What is Zirconia?
Zirconia is a white crystalline solid that is made of zirconium dioxide. Therefore, it is the oxide of zirconium. The chemical formula is ZrO2. In nature, we can find this material in the form of mineral baddeleyite. It is composed of a monoclinic crystalline structure.
We can produce zirconium dioxide through calcining zirconium compounds by using the high thermal stability of the compound. When considering the structure of zirconia, we can observe three major forms as monoclinic crystal structure, tetragonal structure and cubic crystal structure. The monoclinic structure and tetragonal structure occur at comparatively low temperature while the cubic structure occurs at high temperatures.
Chemically, zirconia is unreactive. However, acids such as hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid can slowly attack the material. Moreover, if we heat this material with carbon, it forms zirconium carbide. If there are both carbon and chlorine when heating, it forms zirconium tetrachloride.
Properties of zirconia such as toughness and strength, make this material very useful in the production of ceramic items. By mixing dopants such as magnesium oxide (MgO), the stability of the material increases. The major use of zirconia is in the dentistry for the production of hard ceramics. It acts as a protective coating for the titanium dioxide layer. Moreover, it can act as a refractive material, insulating material, thermal battery coatings, as diamond stimulants in jewellery, etc.
What is Porcelain
Porcelain is a type of ceramic which is made of metal and nonmetal components. Generally, porcelain is produced by heating kaolin in a kiln at a high temperature. The toughness, strength and translucence of this material make it very useful in pottery. There are three main categories of porcelain as hard-paste, soft-paste and bone china. The composition of porcelain is highly variable, but a major component is kaolinite, which is a clay that is used as a raw material for the production of porcelain. In addition, we can use some other raw materials for the production of porcelain, e.g. feldspar, ball clay, glass, bone ash, quartz, etc.
The steps of the production of porcelain include forming, glazing, decoration and firing. Other than its use in pottery, there are some other important uses of porcelain – as an electrical insulating material, as a building material such tiles, as bathroom fittings, etc.
What is the Difference Between Zirconia and Porcelain?
Both zirconia and porcelain are useful materials we can use to produce ceramic products. The key difference between zirconia and porcelain is that zirconia is zirconium dioxide whereas porcelain is a mixture of metals and nonmetals. Usually, zirconia is stronger than porcelain. We can produce zirconium dioxide using the mineral baddeleyite and porcelain via heating kaolin clay at high temperatures.
Below infographic summarizes the difference between zirconia and porcelain.
Summary – Zirconia vs Porcelain
Both zirconia and porcelain are useful materials we can use to produce ceramic products. The key difference between zirconia and porcelain is that zirconia is zirconium dioxide, whereas porcelain is a mixture of metals and nonmetals.
1. “Zirconium Dioxide.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Nov. 2019, Available here.
1. “ZrO2powder” By Materialscientist at the English language Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Jar MET DP168331 (cropped)” By Creator:CapodimonteCreator:Giovanni Caselli – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia