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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Structure of Materials, Part 1: Fundamentals of Materials Structure

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

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Structure – or the arrangement of materials’ internal components – determines virtually everything about a material:  its properties, its potential applications, and its performance within those applications.  This course is the first in a three-part series from MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering that explores the structure of a wide variety of materials with current-day engineering applications. Taken together, these three courses provide similar content to MIT’s sophomore-level materials structure curriculum.

Part 1 begins with an introduction to amorphous materials.  We explore glasses and polymers, learn about the factors that influence their structure, and learn how materials scientists measure and describe the structure of these materials. Then we begin a discussion of the crystalline state, exploring what it means for a material to be crystalline, how we describe periodic arrangement of atoms in a crystal, and how we can determine the structure of crystals through x-ray diffraction.

If you would like to explore the structure of materials further, we encourage you to enroll in Part 2 and Part 3 of the course.

Photo by User: Bill Burris on Flickr. (CC BY-SA) 2.0


Part 1: An Introduction to Materials Science
  • Structure of materials roadmap
  • States of matter and bonding
Part 2: Descriptors
  • Descriptors: concept and function
  • Free volume
  • Pair distribution function
Part 3: Glasses
  • Glass processing methods
  • Continuous network model
  • Network modifiers
Part 4: Polymers
  • Random walk model
  • Chain-to-chain end distance
  • Order and disorder in polymers
Part 5: An Introduction to the Crystalline State
  • Translational symmetry
  • The crystalline state in 2D
  • The crystalline state in 3D
Part 6: Real and Reciprocal Space
  • Miller indices
  • Real space
  • Reciprocal space
Part 7: X-Ray Diffraction
  • Bragg’s Law
  • Diffraction examples

Taught by

Silvija Gradečak


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