Abrasive, sharp, hard material used to wear away the surface of softer, less resistant materials. Included within the term are both natural and synthetic substances, ranging from the relatively soft particles used in household cleansers and jeweler’s polish to the hardest known material, the diamond. Abrasives are indispensable to the manufacture of nearly every product made today.
Abrasives are used in the form of grinding wheels, sandpapers, honing stones, polishes, cutoff wheels, tumbling and vibratory mass-finishing media, sandblasting, pulp stones, ball mills, and still other tools and products. Only through the use of abrasives is industry able to produce the highly precise components and ultra-smooth surfaces required in the manufacture of automobiles, airplanes and space vehicles, mechanical and electrical appliances, and machine tools.
This article surveys the principal materials used in abrasives, the properties of those materials, and their processing into industrial products. Most abrasive products are made of ceramics, which include some of the hardest materials known. The origins of hardness (and other properties) in ceramic materials are described in the article ceramic composition and properties.