Virtual Experiments

Virtual Experiments

These virtual experiments are optimized for high school students, but anyone can learn the basics of materials science and engineering. They simulate basic materials experiments used by scientists and engineers. A scientific format, which presents the experimental conditions, procedure, data, and conclusions, is adopted for each virtual experiment. The goal is to illuminate the issues and important areas of concern within the field of materials.

Learning: The science of materials reveals the relationship between structure and properties.

Designing: The engineering of materials utilizes the known relationship between structure and properties for the purposes of designing a material having a specific set of properties. You can view Creep and Tensile experiments.

Below are some key terms to know before beginning the experiments:


A material is considered to be a collection of various elements in known amounts or proportions (typically in weight percent). These elements are combined either naturally or by human action in order to create a solid chunk of material.


Synthesis is the process of artificially creating materials. (man-made)

Metal Casting

One of the simplest methods of synthesis is metal casting. In casting, known weights of various elements of interest are heated until they melt. Such a melt can take advantage of the properties of a liquid, which has mobile atoms and molecules able to adapt to the shape of the container, allowing the components to mix intimately. The liquid is then poured into a cavity of the desired shape and permitted to cool to a solid.

Mechanical Means

Additionally, the material may be processed by mechanical means, such as rolling, or using a hammer in blacksmithing to beat on the metal, hence changing the shape of the solid. Furthermore, these shape changes often lead to changes in the microstructure of the material.

Thermal Means

Processing by thermal means involves heating the material to a temperature typically above 0.4 times the absolute melting temperature, or the melting temperature in the Kelvin scale. Heating allows the atoms to rearrange themselves in the solid by a mechanism called diffusion. In this process, heating and cooling rates having dramatic effects on reaction kinetics, how the atoms rearrange. Rolling, hammering, melting, heat, cooling, and other processes all play large roles in determining the structure developed in the material.

Atomic Structure, Crystal Structure, Microstructure, and Macrostructure

The structure of a material can be described as an atomic structure, crystal structure, microstructure, or macrostructure. A material's structure describes how the atoms or clusters of atoms are arranged relative to each other. Any alteration in the structure of the material can lead to a change in properties. The properties indicate a material's response to some kind of external stimulus, such as force, temperature, environment, and so on.