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The Physics of Non-Crystalline and Amorphous Materials

Semester 1

The course introduces students to the physics governing the properties of amorphous and non-crystalline materials. Amorphous and non-crystalline structures are examined along with the kinetics necessary to produce such structures. The influence of these structures on the mechanical, electrical, dielectric, magnetic, thermal and optical properties of the materials is also examined.

  • Introduction to non-crystalline and amorphous materials (polymers, glasses, etc.)
  • Structure and chemistry of amorphous and non-crystalline materials: molecular structure of polymers; polarization and defects; thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers; crystallinity and elastomers
  • Glass: formation, structure and transition temperature,
  • Thermodynamics of glass formation;
  • kinetics of glass formation
  • Properties of amorphous and non-crystalline materials:  mechanical, electrical, thermal, dielectric, and optical

The course assessment will be as follows:

  • One 2-hour final written examination                         60%
  • One 1-hour in-course test                                            20%
  • One graded assignment                                              10%
  • Two graded tutorials (equally weighted)                    10%
Learning Objectives: 

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • explain the spatial features and fracture mechanisms in amorphous and non-crystalline structures
  • appraise the thermodynamics and kinetics necessary to produce amorphous and non-crystalline structures
  • describe the processes of polymerization and glass formation
  • calculate viscosity and explain the mechanism for viscoelastic deformation
  • contrast the various mechanisms for charge transport in amorphous and non-crystalline materials
  • describe the processes for thermal expansion and thermal conduction in amorphous and non-crystalline materials
  • differentiate between linear and non-linear polarization in amorphous and non-crystalline materials
  • appraise the optical properties of ceramics as a function of the structure and chemistry of amorphous and non-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

Online Resources:

Course Code: 
3 Credits
Level 3
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