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Unit information: Materials Physics in 2021/22

Unit name Materials Physics
Unit code PHYS30025
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Martin
Open unit status Not open

120 credit points at level I/5 in single or joint honours physics.


PHYS30021 Solid State Physics

School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This third-year undergraduate physics course introduces students to the idea that the structure of materials such as metals, semiconductors, ceramics and polymers are not perfect crystal lattices, and that defects such as dislocations, grain boundaries and impurities are the key to understanding the behaviour of many of these materials.

Students will learn the fundamental theories behind defect formation and movement, phase chemistry and grain structure and how these microstructural properties affect the larger-scale properties for which materials are designed, such as strength, toughness and electrical and thermal conductivity.

The key materials characterisation techniques such as electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, photoemission spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy will be introduced, and students will learn how they can use these techniques to determine the microstructural properties of materials. There will also be some practical demonstrations.

They will also be introduced to concepts such as corrosion, creep, fatigue and irradiation damage to explore how materials can degrade in their strength, conductivity or other useful properties and eventually fail during use.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

1. Describe how the structure of simple metals, polymers and glasses behave, and how real materials differ from perfect structures;

2. Understand the relationship between atomic structure and larger scale properties such as hardness, strength, thermal and electrical conductivity;

3. Interpret the phase diagram of simple metal alloys and the formation of polymer structures, to understand how materials are formed;

4. Understand the importance of defects in materials such as dislocations and grain boundaries, and how these can affect the macro-scale properties of a material;

5. Comprehend the principles behind common materials analysis techniques such as electron microscopy, electron/X-ray/neutron diffraction, photoemission spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy, and how these might be used to characterise the microstructure of a material;

6. Understand the behaviour of a material when exposed to heat, radiation or corrosive materials, how materials can degrade during use, and how defects contribute to this behaviour.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Assessment Information

Written, timed, open-book examination (100%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYS30025).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.