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Materials Science

Subject Summary: Part IB Materials Science

This course applies a broad range of scientific principles in the quest to design new, more advanced materials as well as to understand the functions of materials in modern society. Hence the course is of great benefit to anyone intending to pursue Materials Science, Physics or Chemistry at a higher level. Some ideas introduced in the IA course are studied in much greater depth in order to produce a thorough understanding of how the key scientific aspects of processing, structure and properties interact with factors such as cost, safety and sustainability when considering which materials are suitable for particular applications.

The course looks at advances that continue to be made with metallic materials, where new developments continue to drive forward the improvements in properties of metallic alloys, and also in the areas of polymers, ceramics and glasses. Alongside this, you will look at how materials function in service, whether a material is likely to degrade through chemical processes and when a structure may be susceptible to failure under the imposed mechanical forces. In addition, you will learn the scientific principles of functional materials, such as semiconductors, that have revolutionised society in the last few decades, allowing us to build smaller and more powerful devices by combining new materials with advanced fabrication processes. In addition to the lecture courses and associated practicals, there is also a project which involves dismantling and examining a manufactured article.

The course follows on from Materials Sciences in Part IA and combines well with other subjects in Part IB such as Physics A and/or B, Chemistry A and/or B, Mathematics and Earth Sciences A and/or B.

Programme Specification: Part IB Materials Science

This course is taught by the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.


  1. to develop a broad but detailed appreciation of materials and their properties, building on knowledge obtained in Part IA Materials Science;
  2. to develop a preliminary understanding of the chemical, electrical and mechanical properties of materials, and relate these to their microstructure, in a wide range of different systems, including metals and alloys, polymers, engineering ceramics, and semiconductors;
  3. to generate knowledge and understanding of the basis of processing, production and selection of materials for industrial, commercial and engineering applications;
  4. to provide sufficient background to enable students to continue with more advanced topics in Part II Materials Science.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course the students should:

  1. have acquired knowledge of the major types of materials and how their properties can be calculated or determined experimentally;
  2. have developed a knowledge of production methods and be able to assess the reasons why particular materials and methods of production are chosen in order to achieve a desired set of properties;
  3. have developed transferable skills in the areas of quantitative analysis, scientific reasoning and communication;
  4. have developed practical skills in laboratory work and the necessary associated awareness of health and safety in the laboratory;
  5. have sufficient knowledge and understanding of materials in order to be able to continue into Part II Materials Science.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions, practical classes, microscopy exercises, revision clinics and a guided Materials Manufacturing project (in which students disassemble a common household item and analyse some of its components, to identify the materials and manufacturing methods used).


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen written examinations;
  • weekly practical classes;
  • a series of microscopy exercises;
  • the Materials Manufacturing Project.

Courses of Preparation

Highly desirable: NST Part IA Materials Science; Transfers from other Triposes are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.