BSc Materials Science and Engineering

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Phase Transformations and Microstructure Control

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS23301
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 5
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Materials
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit provides the foundation in phase transformations required to understand microstructural development in metallic, ceramic, and polymeric systems. This includes providing the background theory and quantitative understanding required predicting phase transformation kinetics. 


The unit aims to: 

  • Provide a fundamental understanding and quantitative description of the important phase transformation mechanisms in metallic, ceramic, and polymeric systems. 
  • Provide an understanding of the importance of phase transformations in determining microstructure and an ability to classify phase transformations by type.  
  • Provide a quantitative understanding of diffusion, nucleation, growth, and overall transformation kinetic theory.
  • Provide a foundation in solidification theory including quantitative descriptions.


Learning outcomes

A greater depth of the learning outcomes will be covered in the following sections:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Intellectual skills
  • Practical skills
  • Transferable skills and personal qualities

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, laboratories, recommended textbooks, web resources, past exam papers, electronic supporting information (Blackboard), peer-assisted study sessions (PASS).



Knowledge and understanding

a)      Understand the important classes of phase transformations in materials (metallic, ceramic, polymeric).

b)      Understand the importance of phase transformations and their relation to microstructure.

c)      Understand the mechanisms of diffusion in materials.

d)      Understand Ficks 1st and 2nd laws of diffusion.

e)      Understand nucleation theory, including solid-state nucleation (homogeneous and heterogeneous).

f)       Understand the difference between 1st and 2nd order phase transformations and give examples of both.

g)      Understand growth mechanisms during phase transformations.

h)      Understand and describe non-diffusional phase transformation mechanisms in materials.

i)        Understand how solidification occurs in materials, including a quantitative ability to predict conditions for interface instability.

j)       Understand overall phase transformation kinetics for diffusional and diffusion-less transformations.

Intellectual skills

a)      Use Fick’s 1st and 2nd laws to solve diffusion problems.

b)      Use nucleation theory to predict nucleation rates for phase transformations.

c)      Predict the conditions for interface stability during solidification.

d)     Create and interpret a time-temperature-transformation (TTT) diagram.

Practical skills

a)      Use image analysis to quantify a microstructure.

b)      Use the MATLAB computer language to run a simple model and interpret the results.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

a)      Familiarization with the MATLAB computer language.

b)      Experience and familiarization with image analysis techniques.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

Written and verbal

Recommended reading

  •  See electronic reading list (BlackBoard, Course Information)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 78

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joseph Robson Unit coordinator

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