Materials Science involves the study of the relationships between the synthesis, processing, structure, properties, and performance of materials that enable an engineering function. The properties of interest can be mechanical, electrical, magnetic or optical; the engineering function can impact industries involved in electronics, communications, medicine, transportation, manufacturing, recreation, energy, and the environment.
There are various Classification of Materials:
Metals: These materials are characterized by high thermal and electrical conductivity; strong yet deformable under applied mechanical loads; opaque to light (shiny if polished).Pure metals are not good enough for many applications, especially structural applications. Thus metals are used in alloy form i.e. a metal mixed with another metal to improve the desired qualities. E.g.: aluminum, steel, brass, gold.
Ceramics: These are inorganic compounds, and usually made either of oxides, carbides, nitrides, or silicates of metals. Ceramics are typically partly crystalline and partly amorphous. These materials are characterized by very high strength under compression, low ductility; usually insulators to heat and electricity. Examples: glass, porcelain, many minerals.
Polymers: Polymers in the form of thermo-plastics (nylon, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, rubber, etc.) consist of molecules that have covalent bonding within each molecule and van der Waals forces between them. Polymers in the form of thermo-sets (e.g., epoxy, phenolics, etc.) consist of a network of covalent bonds.
Composite materials: Composite materials are multiphase materials obtained by artificial combination of different materials to attain properties that the individual components cannot attain. An example is a lightweight brake disc obtained by embedding SiC particles in Al-alloy matrix.The main classes of composites are metal-matrix, polymer-matrix, and ceramic-matrix.
Semiconductors: Semiconductors are covalent in nature. Their atomic structure is characterized by the highest occupied energy band (the valence band, where the valence electrons reside energetically) full such that the energy gap between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the empty energy band (the conduction band) is small enough for some fraction of the valence electrons to be excited from the valence band to the conduction band by thermal, optical, or other forms of energy. Their electrical properties depend extremely strongly on minute proportions of contaminants. They are usually doped in order to enhance electrical conductivity. They are used in the form of single crystals without dislocations because grain boundaries and dislocations would degrade electrical behavior. They are opaque to visible light but transparent to the infrared. Examples: silicon (Si), germanium (Ge), and gallium arsenide (GaAs, a compound semiconductor).
Biomaterials: These are any type material that can be used for replacement of damaged or diseased human body parts.Typical applications involve heart valves, hip joints, dental implants, intraocular lenses. Examples: Stainless steel, Co-28Cr-6Mo, Ti-6Al-4V, ultra high molecular weight poly-ethelene, high purity dense Al-oxide, etc.