A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, a type of oven, that produces temperatures sufficient to complete some process, such as hardening, drying, or chemical changes. Kilns have been used for millennia to turn objects made from clay into pottery, tiles and bricks. Various industries use rotary kilns for pyroprocessing—to calcinate ores, to calcinate limestone to lime for cement, and to transform many other materials.
Kilns are an essential part of the manufacture of all ceramics. Ceramics require high temperatures so chemical and physical reactions will occur to permanently alter the unfired body. In the case of pottery, clay materials are shaped, dried and then fired in a kiln. The final characteristics are determined by the composition and preparation of the clay body and the temperature at which it is fired. After a first firing, glazes may be used and the ware is fired a second time to fuse the glaze into the body. A third firing at a lower temperature may be required to fix overglaze decoration. Modern kilns often have sophisticated electrical control systems to firing regime, although pyrometric devices are often also used.
Green wood coming straight from the felled tree has far too high a moisture content to be commercially useful and will rot, warp and split. Both hardwoods and softwood must be left to dry out until the moisture content is between 18% and 8%. This can be a long process, or it is speeded up by use of a kiln. Another use is in the heating of wood to the point of pyrolysis to produce charcoal. Other uses include the drying of tobacco, barley, hops and maize in various agricultural industries.
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