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The Physics of Crystalline Materials

Semester 1

The course introduces students to the physics governing the physical properties of crystalline materials in general.  It begins by reviewing the crystal structures and their attendant imperfections.  It then shows how both structure and the characteristics of the constituent atoms/ions influence the mechanical, electrical, dielectric, magnetic, thermal and optical properties.


The course assessment will comprise of two components; a coursework component worth 70% and a final project worth 30% and are as follows.

1. One graded assignment                            10 %
2. Two graded tutorials (equally weighted)  10 % (5 % + 5 %)
3. One 1-hour in-course test                         10 %
4. 4 quizzes                                                    10%
5. One 2-hour final written exam                  60 %

Learning Objectives: 

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Predict the likely structure of crystals. 
  • Identify and categorize imperfections in crystals.
  • Derive equations for steady-state and ambipolar diffusion in crystals. 
  • Distinguish the differences among the various types of diffusion.
  • Explain fracture toughness and strength as a function of flaw size.  Articulate the concepts behind toughening mechanisms.  Use Weibull statistics in ceramic design.  Explain creep phenomena and relate creep to sub-critical crack growth.  Predict the lifetime of ceramic parts. 
  • Detail the origin of thermal stresses.  Design ceramics with thermal shock resistance.
  • Relate linear and non-linear polarization to the structure and chemistry of ceramics.
  • Relate optical properties of ceramics to both crystal structure and microstructure.
  • Explain the origins of magnetism in crystalline materials


• Callister, W. D. and Rethwisch D. G. (2009), Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction, Wiley, 8th Edition. ISBN-10: 0470419970; ISBN-13: 978-0470419977
• The Science and Engineering of Materials, Donald Askland, Pradeep P. Rhule
• Online Resources:

Course Code: 
3 Credits
Level 3
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