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whiteware, any of a broad class of ceramic products that are white to off-white in appearance

and frequently contain a significant vitreous, or glassy, component. Including products as diverse
as fine china dinnerware, lavatory sinks and toilets, dental implants, and spark-plug insulators,
whitewares all depend for their utility upon a relatively small set of properties: imperviousness to
fluids, low conductivity of electricity, chemical inertness, and an ability to be formed into
complex shapes. These properties are determined by the mixture of raw materials chosen for the
products, as well as by the forming and firing processes employed in their manufacture.
In this article the raw materials, properties, and applications of whiteware ceramics are reviewed.
At certain points in the article there are references to specific industrial processes employed in
the manufacture of whiteware products. For more detailed description of these processes, see
industrial ceramics.

Raw materials: clay, flint, and feldspar


Whitewares are often referred to as triaxial bodies, owing to the three mineral typesclay, silica,
and feldsparconsistently found in their makeup. Clay is the plastic component, giving shaping
abilities to the unfired product and also serving as a glass former during firing. Flint (the
common name used in the industry for all forms of silica) serves as a filler, lending strength to
the shaped body before and during firing. Feldspar serves as a fluxing agent, lowering the
melting temperatures of the mixture.
Clay is the most important of the ingredients, and the most important clay used in fine whiteware
products is kaolin, also known as china clay. Kaolin is the only type of clay from which a white,
translucent, vitreous ceramic can be made. It is a refractory clay, meaning that it can be fired at
high temperatures without deforming, and it is white-burning, meaning that it imparts whiteness
to the finished ware. Kaolin is formed principally of the mineral kaolinite, a hydrous
aluminosilicate with a fine, platy structure; its ideal chemical formula is Al2(Si2O5)(OH)4. China
clays are composed mostly of well-ordered kaolinite, with no impurities. Lower-grade
whitewares are usually made of ball clays, which incorporate ordered and disordered kaolinite
plus other clay minerals and impurities. These impuritiesparticularly iron oxidesrender the
fired ware off-white to gray or tan in colour.

Products
Whiteware products are often differentiated into three main classesporous, semivitreous, and
vitreousaccording to their degree of vitrification (and resulting porosity). Proceeding from
porous to vitreous, more particular product categories include earthenware, stoneware, china, and
technical porcelains. Earthenware is nonvitreous and of medium porosity. It is often glazed to
provide fluid impermeability and an attractive finish. Specific products include tableware and
decorative tile ware. Stoneware is a semivitreous or vitreous whiteware with a fine
microstructure (that is, a fine arrangement of solid phases and glass on the micrometre level).
Products include tableware, cookware, chemical ware, and sanitary ware (e.g., drainpipe).

All vitreous whitewares are often referred to as porcelains, but in the ceramics industry a
distinction is maintained between the true porcelains (or technical porcelains) and china. China is
vitreous whiteware for nontechnical applications. Because of its high glass content, it can be
used unglazed, though it also can be glazed for aesthetic appeal. China is known for high
strength and impact resistance and also for low water absorptionall deriving from the high
glass content. Typical products include hotel china, a lower grade of china tableware with a
strength and impact resistance suiting it to commercial use; fine china (including bone china), a
highly vitreous, translucent tableware; and sanitary plumbing fixtures.
Technical porcelains, like china, are vitreous and nonporous. They are similarly strong and
impact-resistant, but they are also chemically inert in corrosive environments and are excellent
insulators against electricity. Applications include chemical ware, dental implants, and electric
insulators, including spark-plug insulators in automobile engines.