Effects of the ceramic powder size used for suspension as well as several processing parameters in suspension plasma spraying of YSZ were investigated experimentally, aiming to fabricate highly segmented microstructures for thermal barrier coating (TBC) applications. Particle image velocimetry (PIV) was used to observe the atomization process and the velocity distribution of atomized droplets and ceramic particles travelling toward the substrates. The tested parameters included the secondary plasma gas (He versus H2), suspension injection flow rate, and substrate surface roughness. Results indicated that a plasma jet with a relatively higher content of He or H2 as the secondary plasma gas was critical to produce highly segmented YSZ TBCs with a crack density up to ~12 cracks/mm. The optimized suspension flow rate played an important role to realize coatings with a reduced porosity level and improved adhesion. An increased powder size and higher operation power level were beneficial for the formation of highly segmented coatings onto substrates with a wider range of surface roughness.
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