Materials Science and Engineering explained through informational GIFs

Materials science and engineering, is an interdisciplinary field which deals with the study of matter and their properties; as well as the discovery and design of new materials. This relatively new scientific field involves studying materials through the materials paradigm (synthesis, structure, properties and performance). It incorporates elements of physics and chemistry, and is at the forefront of nanoscience and nanotechnology research.


In recent years, materials science has become more widely known as a specific field of science and engineering. It is an important part of forensic engineering and failure analysis, the latter being the key to understanding, for example, the cause of various aviation accidents. The article features various animations related to materials science and engineering.


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Tribology is the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion. It includes the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and wear.

Surface Science / Catalysis

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Surface science is the study of physical and chemical phenomena that occur at the interface of two phases, including solid–liquid interfaces, solid–gas interfaces, solid–vacuum interfaces, and liquid-gas interfaces. It includes the fields of surface chemistry and surface physics. The animated shows how a gas-phase CO molecule adsorbs, interacts with an O neighbor, and finally desorbs as a CO2 molecule (C in green, O in red, the catalyst in grey).


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Rheology is the study of the flow of matter, primarily in the liquid state, but also as 'soft solids' or solids under conditions in which they respond with plastic flow rather than deforming elastically in response to an applied force. It applies to substances which have a complex microstructure, such as muds, sludges, suspensions, polymers and other glass formers (e.g., silicates), as well as many foods and additives, bodily fluids (e.g., blood) and other biological materials or other materials which belong to the class of soft matter. The animation shows a magneto-rheological fluid solidifying and blocking a pipe in response to an external magnetic field.


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In relation to material science and engineering, Nanotechnology studies the effects of the material which is only present at the nanoscale. Though it is the defining property of the material; but more commonly, it is the creation and study of materials which defines the structural properties of materials which can range from anywhere from less than a nanometer to one hundred nanometers in scale, such as molecularly engineered materials.


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Polymers are an important part of materials science. Polymers are the raw materials (the resins) used to make what we commonly call plastics. Plastics are really the final product, created after one or more polymers or additives have been added to a resin during processing, which is then shaped into a final form. Polymers which have been around, and which are in current widespread use, include polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, polystyrene, nylons, polyesters, acrylics, polyurethanes, and polycarbonates. Plastics are generally classified as "commodity", "specialty" and "engineering" plastics. The animation shows the formation of pseudopolyrotaxane.

Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)

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Magnetic micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS) present new class of micro-scale devices that incorporates magnetic materials as sensing or active elements. It exploits properties of magnetic materials by incorporating them in conventional micro-fabricated systems. Though their application for micro-actuation purposes has been limited, the prospect of remote control and large displacements renders them useful, and even unavoidable in certain circumstances.

Powder Diffraction Method

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The possibility of using powder diffraction methods to study materials was recognized shortly after the discovery of X-ray diffraction by von Laüe and Knipping in 1910. Initially, a simple powder diffractometer was used to obtain patterns from a number of simple materials such as diamond, graphite and iron. But later on, it was used to study a wide range of materials, including metals, minerals, and simple organic solids.

17694   04/07/2014

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