Everything that we rely on in our daily lives – the cars that we drive, the clothes that we wear, the appliances and gadgets in our homes and offices, our sporting equipment, computers and mobile phones without which we would be unable to live, the medical technology that keeps us alive – are made up of different types of materials.
The Materials Engineers are part of the initial process, in the development and the future of the extraordinary materials that shape our everyday lives. They analyse the raw material to the core, they design new materials to suit our needs, and they are present at every stage of the cycle of product transformation, from the selection of raw materials to the finished product. Their goal is to combine, modify and develop materials in order to achieve the best performance, the greatest durability and the best cost-effectiveness with regard to processes and products.
There are now about 300,000 different types of materials in the world, so many that If you were able to name one every second, it would take you more than three whole days and nights just to get through the list. And when you think that materials scientists create and combine these materials in hundreds of possible combinations, that number becomes almost infinite.
Materials Engineering transforms everything [that already exists] around us into a limitless universe. It is [a form of ] engineering which is complete, cross-cutting, multidisciplinary and innovative , showing itself to be a fully developing area , in a labour market which is rapidly absorbing new professionals. In Portugal the Materials Sector employs about a million people, and it is estimated that in the next few years it will be one of the world’s major investment areas.
The DEMM and Materials Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering are exciting, stimulating and dynamic areas of study.
The phenomenological and mechanistic relationships between the material processing parameters, the microstructure generated and the macroscopic properties of solids are, in essence, what Materials Science is all about. This is best represented by the “Materials Science triangle”: synthesis-microstructure-properties.
Materials Engineering, on the other hand, is concerned with the design, production, and testing of engineering materials, which must satisfy the basic requisites in dimensional terms, those of quality control, environment and economics.
The involvement of the Department almost spans the entire materials cycle, from mining and refining of raw materials to the manufacture and utilization of finished products, and finally to their disposal, re-use and recycling. There is still a huge variety of problems of vital importance to be solved in the development of materials science and engineering, whether the materials be metals, polymers, ceramics, glasses, electronic materials, biomedical materials, composites, or others.
The Department has taken materials research forward into the new century with a rapidly growing commitment to the field of biomedical and nano materials, in parallel with its traditional activities in the development of new metallic materials and processes. Both computational modelling of materials and process technology have evolved remarkably in equal measure in recent years.