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Eng 45 - Chapter 1 - Structure(8)

Eng 45 - Chapter 1 - Structure(8) - Materials Scien ce Fall...

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Materials Science Fall, 2007 Page 7 1.2.2 Composition and microstructure are independent variables Given that we can never know the exact microstructure of a material, it is worth asking whether we really need to, particularly in light of what you have probably learned in your studies of physics and chemistry. Imagine that you are given a collection of atoms of some particular composition. What happens if you seal them inside a container and leave them alone? Theoretical physics can answer that question, at least in principle. The atoms will eventually settle into a particular configuration, or microstructure, called the equilibrium state . For given values of the temperature and pressure the equilibrium state is uniquely determined by the chemical composition. Since composition and microstructure determine properties, it is sufficient to know the composition of the material to predict the engineering properties of this ultimate equilibrium state. It is then perfectly correct to talk about the properties of iron, or silicon, or iron-carbon alloys.
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