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Eighty samples of the general type of clay raw materials used in the ceramic tile industry of Sassuolo, Italy, for single-firing tile production were subjected to chemical, physical, and technological analyses to determine the minimum number of parameters needed to select suitable raw materials. Most of the samples came from the Westerwald basin in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Provins basin of France, and several areas of Sardinia. The unfired raw materials were milled to the same size (100% <500 μm) and characterized by X-ray powder diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, thermal, and organic carbon analysis. The samples were then pressed into tiles and fired in a modern industrial roll kiln at a temperature of 1200°C. Porosity measurements, reflected light microscopic determinations, and mechanical tests were performed on the sintered bodies. A flow sheet detailing the progression from sulfur analysis, to ther-mogravimetry, to organic carbon and chemical analysis, to X-ray powder diffraction, to bending strength determination, to water absorption and shrinkage measurements, to dilatometry, and finally to porosity determination and optical microscopy was developed. This approach established for each type of analysis a range of acceptable values, permitting the successive rejection of unsuitable samples by a step-wise process.

The application of this method permitted a reduction in the number of potentially suitable samples from 80 to 22, thereby reducing the number of laboratory and industrial tests needed for further evaluation. By this process, sample evaluation times were dramatically shortened.

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