MEng Materials Science and Engineering with Textiles Technology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Structure of Solids

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS16202
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Materials
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit provides an introductory level overview of crystallography, crystal defects and the characterisation of crystal structures using simple X-ray diffraction techniques. 


The unit aims to allow students to: 
Use Miller indices and Miller-Bravais notation to describe crystal directions and the orientation of crystal planes.
Describe the different types of crystal defects including interstitial sites and vacancies 
Use the concept of the Ewald sphere and reciprocal space to explain diffraction patterns
Use X-ray diffraction for characterising simple crystal structures
Describe X-ray generation and how a monochromatic X-ray beam can be produced

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


Knowledge and understanding

1.1 Derive Bragg’s Law for diffraction of X-rays from crystal planes. 
1.2 Describe characteristic and continuum X-ray generation.
1.3 Explain how a monochromatic X-ray beam can be produced.
1.4 Explain how to perform an X-ray diffraction experiment to determine crystal structure.
1.5 Use structure factor to explain the presence of systematic absences in X-ray diffraction patterns. 
1.6 Explain the factors that influence X-ray diffraction intensities.
1.7 Explain the factors that influence surface structure compared to the bulk material. 
1.8 Describe the different types of crystal defects including interstitial sites and vacancies.

Intellectual skills

2.1 Apply Bragg's law for the conversion of diffraction angle and d-spacing.
2.2 Show improved logical reasoning, problem solving and ability in applied mathematics particularly vector addition. 
2.3 Visualisation and representation of 3D structures.

Practical skills

3.1 Have an awareness of how to prepare a powder sample for X-ray diffraction analysis. 
3.2 Use the Weiss Zone Law to find crystal planes that belong to a common zone axis.
3.3 Use stereographic projections to demonstrate crystal symmetry in three dimensions.
3.4 Analyse a simple powder X-ray diffraction pattern to gain information about the structure of a material.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

4.1 Demonstrate improved logical reasoning. 
4.2 Explain the safety considerations necessary when using X-rays.
4.3 Visualise crystallographic problems in three dimensions.

Assessment methods

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

Feedback methods

Feedback given verbal + written

Recommended reading

“Elements of X-ray Diffraction”, B.D. Cullity, Addison-Wesley (1978). 
“Diffraction for Material Scientists” J.M Schultz Prentice-Hall Inc (1982). 
“The Basics of Crystallography and Diffraction” Christopher Hammond, Oxford University Press (1997).
“Introduction to Solid State Physics” Kittel, John Wiley and Sons (1996). 
“Crystallography and Crystal Defects” A Kelly and GW Groves and P Kidd (2000).
Extensive online reference materials are linked on Blackboard including doitpoms website and youtube videos (e.g Lecture on the Braggs

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sarah Haigh Unit coordinator

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