Materials Science: the Essential Evolution of Materials

Dr Rob Wallach


The dramatic progress in living standards over the last hundred years especially has been possible only by the evolution of new materials. The course provides an introduction to the wide breadth of Materials Science as the radically different responses of the wide range of materials we use in quite varied situations enable us to exploit and benefit from their distinctive characteristics in everyday life. Topics include atomic structure and its relevance to all classes of materials, the basis of mechanical and physical properties, optimisation using anisotropy, and environmental degradation. Examples of materials evolution will be used to show how diverse materials are tailored to specific applications including transportation, power generation, communication and health care. Further understanding and development of materials are essential given the growing twenty-first century challenges of sustainability. Science and technology must provide some solutions and Materials Science has a pivotal role.

Throughout the course, participants will be encouraged to draw on and ask questions about their own experiences of materials, and also will be given opportunities to try simple experiments in order to demonstrate and reinforce the concepts introduced, e.g. the failure of materials using different deformation modes and also how small changes to a material can result in a large improvement in a given property. Computer software will be introduced to underpin some of the concepts and a full set of lecture notes is provided at the start of the course.

Intended Audience

The course is not limited to those majoring in science and should be accessible to liberal arts students with some background in science and who are motivated to understand the world around them. Hence any student wishing to discover why so many of the materials around us are interesting and how they have evolved, as well as what the future might hold. Knowledge of and understanding materials behaviour allow us to live more efficiently by optimising natural resources more effectively and also by enabling innovation and change – both are essential to tackle sustainability.

Previous Knowledge

Pre-requisite knowledge is minimal but an awareness of scientific approaches is beneficial. An open mind is needed together with a willingness to engage with scientific and technological concepts related to the world we share.