Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Succesful completion of Year 3 of the MPhys shceme
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Other Workshop. 1 workshop with short oral presentations from students on a research or application related topic


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 3 Hours   End of semester examination  80%
Semester Assessment Oral Presentation  Course Work  20%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   written examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

After taking this module, students should be able to

  • explain the differences between crystalline and non-crystalline materials
  • describe the structure of materials on different length scales
  • suggest experimental techniques for structural investigations and for testing materials' properties
  • discuss structure/property relationships on the basis of experimental data
  • suggest suitable composite materials for advanced purposes

Brief description

Many technological processes and applications demand highly specific materials with tailored properties. Examples are high-energy density batteries for mobile information technology, materials resilient under awkward thermal, pressure, radiative, or chemical conditions (disposal of nuclear waste, shielding of spacecraft). The structure of highly specialised materials becomes more and more complex with an increasing number of boundary conditions for the properties aimed at. Physicists can do their share in the development of novel materials by providing information on the structure of complex materials and linking it with macroscopic materials' properties. This information will provide guidance as to where to look for new classes of materials for tomorrow's technology. In the module, various structural characterisation techniques are introduced, and their use for the investigation of some important structure-property relationships is demonstrated. The course is organised along some basic material classes, and some current applications are discussed.


Interatomic Forces:
Ionic - covalent - hydrogen - Van der Waals

Glasses and Polymers:
Properties - viscosity - glass transition - density fluctuations - diffusion - rubbery state - branching and reptation
Structure - Radial Distribution Function and models for glass structure
Techniques - Extended X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (EXAFS) - Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) - diffuse scattering - Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
Applications - window glass, optical fibres

Ceramics and Composites:
Properties - point-, line-, and surface defects - phase transitions - nucleation and growth - granularity - interface effects - deformation, elastic constants - creep
Techniques - Transmission and Scanning Electron Microscopies (TEM, SEM) - Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)
Applications - heat sink materials - bone replacement materials - high energy density batteries - cermets

Reading List

Recommended Text
J.C. Anderson, K.D. Leaver, R.D. Rawlings, J.M. Alexander (2001) Materials Science 4 Chapman and Hall Primo search
Supplementary Text
Additional reading in relation to workshop topics will be provided Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7