A method for generating spherical and irregularly shaped dense particles of ceramic oxides having a controlled particle size and particle size distribution. An aerosol containing precursor particles of oxide ceramics is directed into a plasma. As the particles flow through the hot zone of the plasma, they melt, collide, and join to form larger particles. If these larger particles remain in the hot zone, they continue melting and acquire a spherical shape that is retained after they exit the hot zone, cool down, and solidify. If they exit the hot zone before melting completely, their irregular shape persists and agglomerates are produced. The size and size distribution of the dense product particles can be controlled by adjusting several parameters, the most important in the case of powder precursors appears to be the density of powder in the aerosol stream that enters the plasma hot zone. This suggests that particle collision rate is responsible for determining ultimate size of the resulting sphere or agglomerate. Other parameters, particularly the gas flow rates and the microwave power, are also adjusted to control the particle size distribution.
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to The Regents to the University of California. The U.S. Government has certain rights in the invention.