MTE3548 - Structure-property relationships in materials - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Chief examiner(s)

Professor Neil Cameron


Dr Laurence Brassart

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)




This unit deals with the mathematical description of physical properties of materials, and their relationship with the underlying microstructure at different length scales. In many materials, including single crystals, textured polycrystals and composites, the physical properties depend on the direction, i.e. they are anisotropic. Describing anisotropy requires proper mathematical tools, as well as an understanding of the material structure at the relevant length scale in order to quantify the property coefficients in various directions. In this unit, we introduce tensors and matrices as mathematical tools to describe anisotropic properties and calculate property relationships in different directions. Material symmetry arguments are introduced to identify the number of independent property coefficients. Mechanical, thermal and electrical properties are systematically investigated (elasticity, electrical permittivity, heat conduction...), including coupled effects (e.g. piezoelectricity, thermal expansion...). Practical problems involving tensor operations are solved using the Python programming language. While there is no formal prerequisite for this unit, basic knowledge in Thermodynamics and Crystallography (MTE 2541 or equivalent), Mechanics of Materials (MTE2546 or equivalent) will be highly beneficial, as well as basic programming skills (ENG1060 or equivalent).


On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Classify physical material properties (e.g. principal vs. coupled, equilibrium vs. transport).
  2. Use tensors to describe anisotropic properties of materials and calculate properties in a specific direction.
  3. Apply symmetry principles to determine the number of independent property coefficients and structure of the tensor needed to describe an anisotropic property.
  4. Analyse structure-property relationships in materials with a range of different symmetries at different length scales, including single crystals, textured polycrystals and composites.
  5. Use scientific computing to perform tensor operations.


NOTE: From 1 July 2019, the duration of all exams is changing to combine reading and writing time. The new exam duration for this unit is 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Continuous assessment: 70%

Examination (2 hours): 30%

Students are required to achieve at least 45% in the total continuous assessment component and at least 45% in the final examination component and an overall mark of 50% to achieve a pass grade in the unit. Students failing to achieve this requirement will be given a maximum of 45% in the unit.

Workload requirements

2 hours lectures, 2 hours of applied classes/computer lab and 8 hours of private study per week.

See also Unit timetable information