The many uses of porcelain

Porcelain was first discovered in China during the Tang dynasty, which reigned from 618 to 907 AD. Of all the ceramic materials, it was the one that took the longest to develop due to the high temperature at which it must be fired. It is made of clay that contains two substances: kaolin and petuntse, the latter of which is only found in China. Since China was the first country to develop the technique of making fine porcelain, many porcelain items are called “china” today.

The first thing anyone thinks of when they think of porcelain is fine vases, plates, figurines, and other decorative items. During China’s Song dynasty (960 – 1279 AD), royal factories were built to produce porcelain pieces for use in royal palaces. Eventually the techniques began to spread to other countries, but fine Chinese porcelain still holds the quality standard by which all other porcelain is measured. In fact, fine porcelain collectors still consider the works produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties to be the highest quality ever created.

Although many companies around the world, such as Lenox, Rosenthal, and Noritake, continue to make porcelain decorative items today, many other uses have been found for the material in a number of applications. One of the best known uses of porcelain today is for dental bridges and veneers. Used in a very fine state, porcelain resists staining better than other materials and more closely resembles the light-reflective properties of real teeth.

In architectural use, porcelain enamel is being used as a coating in high quality construction applications, both for interiors and exteriors. All kinds of buildings, including homes, nurseries, office complexes, museums, and skyscrapers use this glaze in their designs. It is also used as a composite material for walls and writing boards in school classrooms, in bathroom signs and dividers, and as a lining for tunnels and subway stations. It is a perfect material to use in tunnels and underground, because the finish is strong enough not to be damaged by exhaust fumes and graffiti.

Of course, we are all familiar with porcelain tiles which are used in many different applications. They can be used on floors and walls, both indoors and outdoors. They are great in bathrooms and kitchens where moisture is an issue, because they are naturally water resistant. These mosaic tiles are also very beautiful and come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes. Porcelain makes floors extremely durable, as old mosaic floors that still look beautiful centuries after they are installed can attest.

In our homes we owe the beauty and functionality of many basic elements to porcelain enamel. Tubs, sinks, toilets, stoves, washers and dryers, water heaters, grills, and ovens are lined with porcelain enamel. Not only does it make them look good, but it has properties that make it a great choice for these applications. Because it won’t stain, scratch, absorb moisture, be damaged by chemical cleaners, or rust, it provides a surface that keeps our bathroom appliances and accessories looking good longer.

Porcelain also plays an important role in manufacturing, food production, agricultural uses, petrochemicals, and even municipal sewage facilities. As modern scientists continue to find more uses for porcelain materials, the use will continue to increase throughout the decades.

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