Materials for Engineers: Materials by Classes
Classification Systems for Materials
The hundreds of materials for use by engineers are classified in various ways and no classification system encompasses every material or application. Some common approaches for organizing materials are by:
- Fundamental properties. These typically divide materials into common atomic properties; the most basic and well-known system is the periodic table of elements, which works well for elements but less so for composites or particular applications.
- Physical properties, such as density, gravity, thermal conductivity, or magnetism.
- Mechanical or performance properties, such as tensile strength, creep, toughness, or fatigue.
- Suitability for specific circumstances, such as resistance to damage from fires, water, or vibrations; or biocompatibility with humans or animals.
- Industrial applications, such as pharmaceuticals, building construction, electronics, or packaging.
- Appearance, such as color, texture, or reflectivity.
This section presents mini-guides for major groups of materials. Some are based on materials which share atomic bonding characteristics. Others focus on materials for two important applications – biomedical/biotechnology engineering and semiconductors, which are of particular interest in electrical and computer engineering, nanotechnology, and renewable energy.