MEng Materials Science and Engineering with Textiles Technology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Physics of Materials

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS15101
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Materials
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit introduces the physics required to understand the behaviour and properties of materials including common examples of where the physics are applied: 


The unit aims to:

  1. Introduce the physics required to understand the behaviour of materials, from states of matter, subatomic structure to bonding.
  2. Introduce the basics of atomic arrangement in solids.

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, group tutorials (problem sessions), recommended textbooks, web resources, past exam papers, electronic supporting information (Blackboard), peer-assisted study sessions (PASS), practical laboratory classes.


Knowledge and understanding

a. Know the states of matter. 
b. Understand atomic electron energy levels, the associated quantum numbers and their relationship to the periodic table. 
c. Mathematically describe a wave. 
d. Understand the concept of wave-particle duality of light. 
e. Descriptively explain Schrodinger’s wave equation. 
f. Understand atomic bonding and the formation of bands 
g. Understand the concept of a band gap and relate it to the different classes of conducting materials. 
h. Understand the characteristics of the bands. 
i. Define amorphous and crystalline solids at the atomic structure level
j. Describe and construct the structure of a crystalline solid for a given lattice structure and motif. 
k. Determine 2D and 3D lattice directions and planes (Miller indices) using crystallgraphic notations
l. Construct and analyse the principal metallic crystal structures (HCP, FCC and BCC)
m. Define elastic properties of materials (Young’s modulus and shear modulus.
n. Apply linear elasticity to calcualte elastic deformation of materials
o. Explain the relationship between stiffness and atomic bonds
p. Define thermal properties of materials (heat capacity, thermal expansion, thermal conductivity and thermal stresses) and interpret their origins at the atomic level

Intellectual skills

a. Show improved logical reasoning, problem solving and ability in applied mathematics. 
b. Apply the concepts of packing to a wide variety of structures, including metals, ceramics, polymers and natural materials, 
c. Demonstrate an understanding of the physical principles that determine the properties of a material.

Practical skills

a. Develop an awareness of practical issues when using a visible light spectrometer to characterise the spectra produced by different types of lighting products; understand the physical principles and characteristics of different light sources. 
b. Develop an awareness of practical issues when performing mechanical testing (i.e. compression and shear testing) and understand the graphical representations of the experiment results; calcualte elastic properties of the materials based on the experiment data and explain the results using atomic bond theories.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

a. Convert word problems into equations and numerical answers. 
b. Develop techniques for estimating the results from calculations. 
c. Work effectively in a group to solve problems. 
d. Compose simple technical reports on laboratory tests.
e. Plan for experimental activities.
f. Be aware of the importance of health and safety protection measures in experiment design.
g. Comparative analysis of different sample sets focusing on cause and effect and cross-referencing experimental results with the literature.

Assessment methods

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

Feedback methods

Feedback given verbal + written

Recommended reading

“Materials Science and Engineering - An Introduction”, W. D. Callister, D. G.Rethwisch, Pub. Wiley, 2010.
“The Basics of Crystallography and Diffraction”, C. Hammond, Oxford University Press, 2001
SpectraSchool (Royal Society of Chemistry), (and search for crystallography)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Zhu Liu Unit coordinator

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