Materials Science & Engineering

Materials Science & Engineering Department

 

I.   

What is Materials Science & Engineering?

 

Materials Science & Engineering is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the generation and application of knowledge relating to the composition, structure, processing and performance of materials to their properties and uses. The field encompasses the complete knowledge spectrum for materials ranging from the basic end, materials science, to the applied end, materials engineering. It forms a bridge of knowledge from the basic sciences to various engineering disciplines.[1]

 II.    The Scope of Materials Science & Engineering

As seen through the looking path of challenges of human being that started counting from the existence of life in our planet, the material world has been one of the critical determinants in advancing our life style – solving challenges using the preferred material to make the desired tools/devices. The immense application of materials has been notably witnessed through numerous uses ranging from simple tools to advanced electronic devices. The need and choice of materials is vastly diversified and meets us almost anywhere in our universe – from different materials used on our planet, for numerous applications, to ideal materials for space shuttle and planetary roverapplications that are resistant to aggressive atmosphere in space and other planets like mars. One can also note that everything we find in nature, including mankind and his different organs functioning differently, is made of materials with a complicated science behind it. The secret for the many incredible and spectacular phenomenon of Mother Nature also lies behind the materials used at a defined processing condition. As an example, diamond and graphite have major difference in electrical, optical and mechanical property. However, both are made of the same element – carbon. The different form of carbon has also now come as prominent emerging materials called graphene, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. The very mysteries secret for such a difference in properties of these materials is governed by a complicated science of materials.

The secret for many other bizarre or astonishing issues in nature, be it biological/chemical or physical type, also lies on the utilized material with a preferred processing condition and a distinct structure of the material at a nano/micro scale. As a result, many technologies are nowadays transferred from nature to modern artificial devices or items, e.g., very attractive dustproof and waterproof leaves, from nature, are now under intense research to extend it for future textile products with the same property. Additionally, artificial photo-synthesis, for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight for a solar fuel application is one exciting field in the science and engineering of materials. Such a technology transfer from nature to new artificial technology, as a solution to our world problem, is called biomimicry – one of the most fascinating paths of the current advanced Materials Science & Engineering.    

The long-standing technologies on structural materials like metals, glass, ceramics, and polymers have served human being at large through devices and tools made of it and simplifying problems in a day to day life. Such materials are cornerstones for the emergency of several devices, tools, furniture, key elements of construction and the like. Nowadays, one can imagine that even a single building or a car is not able to be realized without the use of these materials. The choice and use of such materials with a remarkable versatility has been made through understanding the properties of different materials. The invention and advancement of tools, from such selected materials and preferred processing, makes human being as the most highly developed species of our world. In other words, one can see that there is a connection between humanity and the material world - it has a meaning to the nature of our very existence. Here, it is worthwhile to note that it is the type of the atom/s with a defined structure and processing condition that determines the property of the final product of a material, where it in turn determines the performance of the device/item or tool made out of it. Advances in the science and engineering of the structural materials have been made and will still continue by meeting our ever increasing diversified interest in relation to new properties of materials and expanding scope of applications.

While tools made of different materials in relation to different mechanical properties started very early, the electronics world are advanced success of science and technology of the last century – the 20th, sometimes called the century of electron. Many agree that the most successful device of the last century is a transistor – a semiconductor device that is memory and processor of a computer, mobile phones, memory chip/device and many other devices. All these devices were products of chips technology, where it is realized through a material called silicon. The material in different form, crystalline/polycrystalline or amorphous silicon, is a dominant semiconductor of our time. As it controlled the electronics industry, silicon has also become one of the most investigated materials of our world. Such a semiconductor material is not only used to realize transistor or electronic devices, but it is also a material of interest, or active component, for sensors and opto-electronics devices like solar cells and photodiodes. Here, the main issue of materials scientists on the use of silicon for electronic and/or optoelectronic device includes different property study of the material and processing from the raw material up to a device level.

Recently, interest on flexible, low cost and light-weight electronics has now created and expanded to a new horizon of electronics world called organic electronics – electronics made of emerging organic semiconductor materials. The same trend has also started to be applied on photonics devices, that is, devices like light-emitting diode, solar cells, and lasers by using emerging organic semiconductors instead of inorganic semiconductors. Such a new field of electronics world was possible through doping or molecular manipulations/modifications of insulating polymers and molecules. The discovery of organic semi-conductor/conductor, by pioneers of organic electronics, is one of the most astounding discoveries of our time. On the other hand, it is in the last century that conductors, semiconductors and insulators were well studied and identified with better stability, capability and other desired property. Hence, the material world is central to the science and technology of electronics, photonics and related devices. Thus, when we see from functional and structural materials perspective and their immense application, materials science is one of the top influential scientific disciplines of all time.

The field of Materials Science and Engineering began to be considered its own discipline around the mid 1960',© though it was part of informal science/technology since the Stone Age. All the efforts made in the past, by materials scientists, have made significant contribution in understanding of different materials and their technological impact to solve problems of human life significantly. The search for new materials, understanding it from atomic and/or structural perspective, development of new processing conditions for better performance is a perpetual effort of materials scientists. Nowadays, the world has reached to advanced era of science through the use of small scale materials – materials at a nano-scale. These emerging materials include nanomaterials, small molecules, biomaterials and the like. The science and engineering of such nano-scale materials, or nanoscience and technology, have opened a new world of possibilities with novel applications at a broader scope. The key secret for the choice of nano-scale materials lies behind the miraculous change in physical, chemical, electrical and optical property when the size of the material is changed from bulk to nano-scale. The issue with such an entirely new radical concept revolutionized the whole of the material world; and it resulted a profound implication and application for different devices. As a result, nanotechnology seems to be one of the chronic achievements of all scientific endeavors ever since made in the history of mankind. Nano-science/technology is also expected to be a central pillar for the success of future science – success of 21st century, which many expects to be called century of light or optics. Fortunately, Materials Science & Engineering, is the cornerstone of such new field of technology or nanotechnology, and is key part for the emerging novel and extraordinary technological breakth-roughs – it is the age of Materials Science. Thus, as a solution to the many earlier, current and future challenges noted above, academic and research institutions in many nations and world class universities have Materials Science & Engineering institutions, and they considered it as a key field of study. Understanding the enormous advantages of the field, for a nation or global development, the African Union considered materials science as one key academic strategy for the development of the continent.§ Consequently, Bahir Dar University has opened the department from the same advantage of perspective in Ethiopia. 

 III.   Materials Science & Engineering Department at BDU 

The Material Science Department was started at BDU in 2011. The department is a two years regular master level program. It offers M.Sc. after two years of successful study – including course and research. Through two years of stay, the Department teaching staffs and research advisors have increased dramatically. Recently, in 2013, a critical curriculum review has been done and courses were redesigned. Before the curriculum review, comments, suggestions and important remarks from the different companies, governmental and non-government institutions in the nation were considered. This was made by a direct visit of staff members there in the institutions and companies based on processing of polymer, metal, glass, ceramic and solar assembly factories in the different regions of Ethiopia.

While revising the curriculum, addition of entirely new courses and major/minor modifications or exclusion of existing courses has been made considering discussions within teaching staff. The review process considers the view, comments and suggestions of professionals in the visited places. Special focus was also given to factories that are related to courses offered in the Materials Science Department, so that future graduate students of the Department will be inputs/potential employee, make university-company connections and to satisfy inherent skilled man power in the companies or the nation as a whole. Besides, links has been made for potential research work, related to companies’ production and related materials.

The new or current curriculum of the Department will be listed in the next section. Furthermore, considering the nature of the courses, having both science and engineering aspect, experience of other institutions in the world, and proper naming of degree title in line with the course offered, a decision has been made to change the Department’s name from “Materials Science” to “Materials Science & Engineering”. Correspondingly, the students’ final degree, after successful two years of study, would be changed from “M.Sc in Materials Science” to “M.Sc. in Materials Science & Engineering.”

 IV.     Teaching and Research

Teaching staff are from different science and engineering disciplines. The staff specialization profile includes materials science & engineering, physics, chemistry, molecular biology, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and others. Currently, there are more than eight PhD holders affiliated with the department courses and research work.  Additionally, there are three supporting M.Sc holders in the staff, where they assist students’ laboratory courses.  The current staff research areas include semiconductor materials and devices, polymers, biomaterials, thin films, composites, energy converters and energy storage materials/devices, ceramics, glass and metals. The course description of the Department is listed below in the Table.

 Main and Electives Courses

 a)   Main courses

 

No

Course Title

Cr.Hr

1

Materials Analysis

3

2

Thermodynamics and Kinetics of Materials

3

3

Solid State Physics for Materials Scientists

3

4

Science & Technology of Thin Films and Nano- Materials

3

5

Renewable Energy Materials & Devices §

4

6

Ceramics and Glasses

2

7

Metals

2

 

 

 

8

Introduction to Computational Science

1

9

Computational Methods in Materials Science

2

10

Polymer Materials

3

11

Semiconductor Materials and Devices

3

12

Materials Science Lab I

2

13

Materials Science Lab II

2

14

Scientific Writing and Research Methods §

2

15

Elective Course

2

 

Thesisà

---

 

Total

37

  b)     Elective courses

vcvcbv

No

Course Title

Cr.Hr

1

Construction Materials §

2

2

Biomaterials§

2

3

Special topics in Materials Science & Engineering§ 

2

4

MATLAB for Materials Scientists   

2

 V.       Current Progress 

The Materials Science and Engineering Department at BDU has made significant advancement in staff profile, teaching and staff rooms as well as laboratory facilities. Besides, based on BDU’s higher officials focus, the department has also recently bought, laboratory scientific instruments for materials processing and characterize-ations. Some of the existing instruments include Cary 630 FTIR with Diamond ATR, UV-Vis Spectroscopy, solution processing instruments, programmable thermal processing oven (up to 3,000 OC), lab fume hood and others too. Besides, the department has already requested other instruments, and it has been approved and will be open for bid in the near future. These additional instruments to be bought are many in number, and the main instrumentation includes SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy), AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy), XRD (X-Ray Diffraction), Digital binocular microscope with camera interfaced (Zesis camera integrated), Hall Effect characterization, solar cell characterizations, mechanical testing instrumentations etc. Besides, the department has planned to buy variety of chemicals for teaching as well as students’ and staff research work.

In addition to experimental facilities, the department has established one fully furnished computational modeling and simulation laboratory. This laboratory is an essential part of MSE department as staff and students can characterize the structural and dynamic properties of complex materials. This Lab contains 12 Core i7 PCs with all necessary software installed. Furthermore, to strengthen this Lab two high performing computers have been under purchasing process. 

VI.     

Future Direction

The Materials Science and Engineering Department at BDU is planned to expand in teaching staff, teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, research areas with a well established administrative and financial institutional structure. The Department has a vision to be a center of excellence in academic and research in the nation. The major future vision of the Department includes the following:   

§ 

Diversified teaching and research staff in the Department.  

§ 

Well established research and teaching laboratory.

§ 

Establishing research collaborations with domestic and abroad institutions.   

§ 

Offering short-term courses for governmental and non-governmental institutions involved in materials processing and device/product fabrication.

[2]

§ 

Establishing the Materials Science & Engineering at institutional level.

§ 

Undergraduate program in Materials Science & Engineering.

§ 

PhD program in Materials Science & Engineering.

§ 

Establishing one of the best computational materials science  simulation center


§ Block or semester based course applicable

à 37 credit hours is only for the courses, and the thesis credit hours might change depending on the rule/regulations of the Ministry of Education.  

[2]The short term course includes polymers, metals, ceramics, glass, composite materials, renewable energy devices/systems and related.

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