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Materials science is a multidisciplinary field focusing on functional solids, whether the function served is structural, electronic, thermal, chemical, magnetic, optical, or some combination of these. It uses those parts of chemistry and physics that deal with the properties of materials, but also includes a distinctive set of scientific techniques that probe materials structure. Evaluation of material performance is grounded in the field of engineering where that material is applied, and applying materials science requires a knowledge of the processing technologies of the material in question. Material properties, structure, performance, and processing are so essential and interrelated that they are often presented as the vertices of the materials science tetrahedron.
The widespread applications of materials science give rise to the title materials science and engineering. Radical materials advances can drive the creation of new products or even new industries, but stable industries also employ materials scientists to make incremental improvements and/or to troubleshoot. Industrial applications of materials science include materials design, cost/benefit tradeoffs in industrial production of materials, processing techniques (casting, rolling, welding, ion implantation, crystal growth , thin-film deposition, sintering, glassblowing, etc.), and analytical techniques (electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, calorimetry, nuclear microscopy (HEFIB) etc.).
Classes of materials
Materials science encompasses various classes of materials, each of which may constitute a separate field. Some examples include:
Sub-fields of materials science
- Nanotechnology --- the creation and study of molecularly engineered materials (nanomaterials) with structures on the length scale of nanometers.
- Crystallography --- the study of the physics of crystals, including
- Metallurgy --- the study of metals
- Ceramics, which can be subdivided into
- Biomaterials --- materials that can be used in the human body
- Tribology --- the study of the wear of materials due to friction and other factors
Note that some practitioners often consider rheology a sub-field of materials science, because it can cover any material that flows. However, a typical rheology paper covers non-Newtonian fluid dynamics, so we place it as a sub-field of Continuum mechanics. See also granular material.
Topics that form the basis of materials science
- Thermodynamics, for phase stability, phase transformations and phase diagrams.
- Thermal analysis, Thermogravimetry, study changes in materials as function of combined temperature, time and interactions with gases.
- Kinetics, applied to the rates of phase transformations, thermal decomposition and diffusion.
- Solid-state chemistry --- the study of chemistry taking place within solids
- Solid-state physics --- usually considered the study of quantum effects in solid material, such as semiconduction or superconduction.
- Continuum mechanics --- the study of solids and fluids, modeling them as continuous materials.
- Timeline of materials technology
- Bio-based materials
- Liquid crystal
- Important publications in materials science
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