Engineering materials (ceramics and composites)

Ceramics are inorganic, non-metallic solids comprising metal, non-metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds. The crystallinity of ceramic materials range from highly oriented to semi-crystalline, and often completely amorphous (e.g. glasses). Varying crystallinity and electron consumption in the ionic and covalent bonds cause most ceramic materials to be good thermal and electrical insulators and extensively researched in ceramic engineering.

Composites are made by physically combining two or more materials to achieve a more desirable set of properties. The use of composites is not new, but composites are being developed to meet demands. The vast majority of composites were developed to provide strength and rigidity while being relatively light. This makes them ideal to be used for furniture, buildings, sports equipment, boats, cars, and planes. Composite materials are also being developed for their ability to provide a specific combination of properties and functions, not simply for their mechanical properties.

This list suggests some activities that can be used with students to demonstrate the properties and applications of some common ceramics and composties. There are links to other resources that can be used to illustrate their engineering applications.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or other recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to health and safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our health and safety guidance