The formability and stability of the alpha-sialon (alpha') phase was investigated in multi-cation Nd-Li-sialon systems. Four samples were prepared, ranging from a pure Nd-sialon to a pure Li-sialon, with two intermediate samples being prepared with either lithium or neodymium replacing the other alpha'-stabilising additive by 20 eq.%, as to maintain an equivalent design composition in all samples. After sintering, all samples were subsequently heat treated up to 192 h at 1450 and 1300 degreesC. While significant quantities of the beta'-sialon (beta' phase were found in most samples, the high-lithium Li-Nd-sialon sample was found to be almost pure a' phase after sintering. Furthermore, the long-term stability of the a' phase on heat treatment was also found to be superior in both multi-cation samples than in either of the single-alpha'-stabilising-cation samples. This is thought to be related to improved retention of the lithium in the multi-cation systems, as much of the lithium was found to volatilise during sintering in the neodymium-free sample. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.