Porcelain is important because of the advantages it has over early pottery. As a ceramic material, it is valued for its toughness, durability and ease of cleaning. In 16th century China, porcelain was discovered as an alternative to pottery when inventors fired up a kiln and used the base materials porcelain clay or porcelain stone.
Porcelain is the most popular electrical insulator. In fact, porcelain knobs are used to cap high-voltage electricity lines, where their hardness protects them from harsh weather. This also makes them useful components in high-frequency antennas and outdoor power transformers.
Porcelain's hardness makes it ideal for ceramic engineering, where the electrical conductivity of metal would be undesirable. The sterility and high heat resistance of this inorganic material is responsible for many advancements in the aerospace industry.
Porcelain use is not relegated to large-scale industrial uses. In the household, ceramic knives have durability and longevity advantages over metal knives. Bathroom tiles made of porcelain are easy to clean and outlast many other building materials, while the inorganic and nonporous nature limits the growth of microorganisms. These same physical properties eliminate the need to glaze the finished product of a porcelain object to protect it from dirt and wear.