Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a range of products, from computer chips and aircraft wings to golf clubs and biomedical devices. They study the properties and structures of metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, nanomaterials (extremely small substances), and other substances to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements. They also help select materials for specific products, develop new ways to use existing materials, and develop new materials.
Materials engineers typically do the following:
Plan and evaluate new projects, consulting with other engineers and managers as necessary
Prepare proposals and budgets, analyze labor costs, write reports, and perform other managerial tasks
Supervise the work of technologists, technicians, and other engineers and scientists
Design and direct the testing of processing procedures
Monitor how materials perform and evaluate how they deteriorate
Determine causes of product failure and develop ways of overcoming such failure
Evaluate technical specifications and economic factors relating to the design objectives of processes or products
Materials engineers create and study materials at an atomic level. They use computers to replicate the characteristics of materials and their components. They solve problems in a number of engineering fields, such as mechanical, chemical, electrical, civil, nuclear, and aerospace.
Materials engineers may specialize in understanding specific types of materials. The following are examples of types of materials engineers:
Ceramic engineers develop ceramic materials and the processes for making them into useful products, from high-temperature rocket nozzles to glass for LCD flat-panel displays.
Composites engineers develop materials with special, engineered properties for applications in aircraft, automobiles, and related products.
Metallurgical engineers specialize in metals, such as steel and aluminum, usually in alloyed form with additions of other elements to provide specific properties.
Plastics engineers develop and test new plastics, known as polymers, for new applications.
Semiconductor processing engineers apply materials science and engineering principles to develop new microelectronic materials for computing, sensing, and related applications.