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Comparison of ceramic bearing and steel bearing materials

When it comes to choosing bearing materials, designers and manufacturers have a variety of options at their disposal. Two popular materials used for high-performance bearings are ceramic and steel. Here, we will compare the advantages and disadvantages of ceramic bearing and steel bearings, high lighting their differences in terms of material properties, performance, and applications.

Material Properties of ceramic bearing and steel bearing

ceramic bearing

The composition of ceramic bearings is a bit more complex than steel bearings. While steel bearings are made of pure steel, ceramic bearings are made of a combination of ceramic materials, typically consisting of silicon nitride, zirconia, or alumina. Compared to steel bearings, ceramic bearings have a number of advantages:

  1. Higher hardness: Ceramic bearings boast higher hardness compared to steel bearings, making them less prone to wear and tear.
  2. Corrosion resistance: Ceramic bearings are highly resistant to corrosion, particularly in harsh environments such as marine or chemical industries.
  3. Less thermal deformation: Ceramic materials have a lower coefficient of thermal expansion compared to steel, which means they are less prone to deformation under high temperatures.
  4. Despite these advantages, ceramic bearings are not without their downsides. For one, they are more brittle than steel bearings and can crack or chip under extreme loading conditions. Ceramic bearings are also more expensive than steel bearings due to their manufacturing process.
Ceramic Bearings vs. Steel Bearing Material Comparison Chart
Item Unit Si3N4 ZrO2 Al2O3 (99.5%) SiC Bearing Steel
Density g/cm3 3.23 6.05 3.92 3.12 7.85
Coefficient of Friction MPa•m1/2 0.0010 0.0012
Water Absorption % 0 0 0 0 0
Coefficient of Linear Thermal Expansion 10-6/k 3.2 10.5 8.5 3 12.5
Modulus of Elasticity (Young’s Mod.) GPA 300 210 340 440 208
Poisson’s Ratio / 0.26 0.3 0.22 0.17 0.3
Hardness (Hv) MPa 1500 1200 1650 2800 700
Flexural Strength (@ R.T.) MPa 720 950 310 390 520 (tensile strength)
Flexural Strength (700°) MPa 450 210 230 380 /
Compressive Strength (@R.T.) MPa 2300 2000 1800 1800 /
Fracture Toughness, Kb MPa*m1/2 6.2 10 4.2 3.9 25
Thermal Conductivity (@R.T.) W/m*k 25 2 26 120 40
Electrical Resistivity (@R.T.) Ω*mm2/m >1013 >1015 >1016 >103 0.1~1
Max. Use Temperature (no loading) °F 1050 750 1500 1700 300
Corrosion Resistance / Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor

Performance of ceramic bearing and steel bearing

When it comes to performance, ceramic bearings typically outperform their steel counterparts in several key areas:

  1. Speed: Ceramic bearings can operate at higher speeds than steel bearings due to their lower density and higher stiffness.
  2. Temperature resistance: Ceramic bearings can withstand higher temperatures than steel bearings, making them ideal for high-temperature applications.
  3. Fatigue life: Ceramic bearings have a longer fatigue life compared to steel bearings, which means they are less likely to fail due to material fatigue.

However, when it comes to load capacity, steel bearings generally outperform ceramic bearings due to their higher elasticity and ductility. This means that steel bearings can bear heavier loads without experiencing plastic deformation.

Applications of ceramic bearing and steel bearing

The choice between ceramic and steel bearings ultimately depends on the specific application and its requirements. Ceramic bearings are typically used in high-performance applications where high speeds, extreme temperatures, and corrosion resistance are critical. Some typical use cases for ceramic bearings include:

  • High-speed spindles in machine tools and turbines
  • High-temperature applications in aerospace and automotive industries
  • Marine and chemical industries where corrosion resistance is a must

On the other hand, steel bearings are generally more versatile and can be used in a wide range of applications. Some typical use cases for steel bearings include:

  • Electric motors and pumps
  • General machinery and equipment
  • Automotive and aerospace applications where high loads are needed


  • When it comes to choosing between ceramic bearings and steel bearings, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Both materials have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the application. While ceramic bearings may offer superior performance in certain areas, they are typically more expensive and less versatile compared to steel bearings.
  • Whether you choose ceramic or steel bearings, it is important to ensure that they are properly installed, lubricated, and maintained to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

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