What is Cordierite? | Materials Science | Corning

What is Cordierite?

What is Cordierite?

Siecor, Corelle, Celcor… do you see a pattern in these names?

Yes, it’s the syllable “cor.” Throughout Corning’s history, many of its business ventures and product names reflect similar mash-ups to include the “cor” from Corning’s name in the company or product.

But do all these names reflect Corning’s influence? In the case of Celcor, it’s just a coincidence. Here’s how it came about.

Corning® Celcor® substrates are the company’s hallmark environmental products made from a material called cordierite.

Cordierite, discovered more than two centuries ago, is a naturally occurring mineral compound containing magnesium, iron, aluminum, and silicon. It’s found, among other places, near veins of tin in the mines of Southern England.

French geologist Louis Cordier included the mineral in a much-celebrated geological gallery at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris in 1813. The actual naming process is unclear, but Cordier was the first to describe the compound in detail. Soon, it bore his name.

In the 1970s Corning scientists created a synthetic version of cordierite. They omitted the iron, but included magnesium, aluminum, and silicon, creating a new material for Corning’s emissions-control products. This synthetic cordierite could be rapidly heated and cooled, while barely changing dimensions, making it very thermal shock resistant. Corning’s take on cordierite lent itself well to a modified extrusion manufacturing process, allowing the creation of a thin-walled cell structure, with thousands of parallel walls, to create a honeycomb-like structure. Corning’s cordierite substrates could withstand the demanding conditions in the hot exhaust system of a car. These cellular ceramic substrates form the core of the catalytic converter, an innovation Corning developed to help automakers meet the emissions regulations in the Clean Air Act of 1970.

For more than four decades, Corning has continued its research and development on cordierite, improving the material in new and innovative ways to meet the demands of today’s automakers for substrates with thinner walls and more channels per area, to further reduce emissions, with minimal impact on fuel economy.

For example, Corning scientists designed a strong, but substantially lighter cordierite structure, that can reach extremely hot temperatures within a matter of a few seconds to help catalysts become active and remove pollutants more quickly. These new substrates, known as Corning® FLORA® substrates, enable automakers to greatly reduce the harmful emissions during engine start-up.

The discovery of a humble mineral compound more than a century ago -- and ongoing iterations in labs and factories today -- have created a profound impact on our world. Cordierite continues to provide avenues for innovation in emissions control, contributing to cleaner cars and a healthier planet.