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Engineering Atoms

at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2015

What is Metallurgy?

Image on left (courtesy of Rolls Royce) - Turbine Blade. Image on right (© Samuel Blanc) of González Videla Antarctic Base

A long standing member of the Materials Science world is Metallurgy. It is to a blacksmith what medical science is to a medic: it goes beyond mystery and folklore, providing us with the reasons and understanding.  Metallurgy is one of the oldest forms of Materials Science and has been key in human development, literally defining the ages: Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. Nowadays it remains a thriving scientific field that studies the behaviour and properties of metals to improve manufacturing and create a better product.

The role of the metallurgist is to balance material properties in order to achieve, for example, a strong, corrosion resistant steel to endure Arctic conditions without being too brittle or expensive, or a nickel turbine blade for an aeroplane jet engine that can survive harsh high temperature conditions for tens of thousands of flight hours. Inevitably, some parts might fail and it is the job of the metallurgist to do failure analysis in controlled conditions to be able to reliably predict this and hence ensure it does not occur during use.

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