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Mechanical engineers' typical misconceptions in materials science and how to correct them

Prof Arlindo Silva | Instituto Superior Tecnico University of Lisbon, Portugal

Mechanical engineers' typical misconceptions in materials science and how to correct them

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At Instituto Superior Tecnico (IST), the University of Lisbon, Portugal, students of mechanical engineering take two courses related to materials: materials science (MS) and materials in engineering (ME). However, certain misconceptions about materials still persist after these two courses, and this is visible in other downstream courses like mechanical design and product development. Using hardness, strength, stiffness and toughness interchangeably to mean the same thing are just the tip of the iceberg of these misconceptions. Another misconception is the effect that thermal treatments have on the mechanical properties of steels: what are the properties affected and why. A different approach to the teaching of fundamental concepts about materials science is presented, in which these typical misconceptions are tackled directly. The use of available software tools is exemplified to clear these misconceptions, with examples and case studies. Plotting properties like Young�s modulus against yield strength helps in explaining why materials with the same composition but different thermal treatments can have properties with a range of variation while other properties remain almost constant, as an example. Another example can be taken from plotting strength against elongation for different carbon steels, and understanding what is happening at the micro and macro levels. The implications of this fundamental knowledge can then be used in mechanical design and materials selection by the students. The presentation will show how this will be done in class.