Materials science and engineering is an interdisciplinary and important branch of study that deals with designing and discovering new materials, particularly solids. Materials science is one of the oldest forms of engineering and applied science, and The material of choice in a given era is often a defining point (e.g., Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age). The intellectual origins of materials science stemmed from the Enlightenment when researchers began to use analytical thinking from chemistry, physics, and engineering to understand ancient, phenomenological observations in metallurgy and mineralogy. Sometimes it is useful to subdivide materials science and engineering into materials science and materials engineering subdisciplines. The discipline of materials science involves investigating the relationships between the structures and properties of materials. In contrast, materials engineering is, based on these structure-property correlations, designing or engineering the structure of a material to produce a predetermined set of properties.
From a functional perspective, the role of a materials scientist is to develop or synthesize new materials. In contrast, a materials engineer is called upon to create new products or systems using existing materials and to develop techniques for processing materials.
The basis of materials science involves studying the structure of materials and relating them to their properties (mechanical, electrical, etc.). Once materials scientists know about this structure-property correlation, they can then study the relative performance of a material in a given application. The major determinants of the structure of a material and thus of its properties are its constituent chemical elements and how it has been processed into its final form.
What is Material
A material is defined as a substance (most often a solid, but other condensed phases can be included) intended for certain applications. There is a myriad of materials around us – they can be found in anything from buildings to spacecraft. Based on chemistry and atomic structure, materials are classified into three general categories:
- Metals (metallic elements),
- Ceramics (compounds between metallic and non-metallic elements),
- Polymers (compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen, and other non-metallic elements).
In addition, composites are composed of at least two different material types. New and advanced materials being developed include nanomaterials, biomaterials, and energy materials, to name a few.
Materials for Nuclear Engineering
Understanding material science is essential for power plant personnel to understand why the material was selected for certain applications within their facility. Almost all processes that take place in nuclear facilities involve the use of specialized metals. A basic understanding of material science is necessary for nuclear facility operators, maintenance personnel, and the technical staff to operate and maintain the facility and facility support systems safely. Our goal here will be to introduce the material engineering of nuclear reactors. The knowledge of thermophysical and nuclear properties of materials is essential for designing nuclear power plants.