Due to the higher cost, full ceramic bearings are only used where steel or stainless steel bearings cannot cope. Full ceramic bearings are ideal for use in corrosive environments. Consider the marine industry as an example. Unlike stainless steel, ceramic bearings are extremely corrosion resistant and can operate for long periods of time — even when fully submerged — in seawater.
Full ceramic bearings will cope with very high and very low temperatures. They are also highly resistant to chemicals. As a result, these bearings will not suffer the same damage steel bearings would in many aggressive environments. Lubrication can be a problem with some applications due to temperature extremes, chemical attack or wash-out. Full ceramic bearings can offer a solution here as they can be run without lubrication.
There are various types of ceramic bearings, including Zirconia, Silicon Nitride and Silicon Carbide options.
For more information on materials, check out our bearing materials guide.