It is vitally important for engineers to understand how materials behave when used to construct buildings and machines.
Lack of knowledge of the mechanical properties of a material, the effects of repeated use or the effects of processing during manufacture can lead to failure. The consequences of this can be expensive or at worst lead to injury or death.
New materials and components are subjected to many tests to characterise their physical properties. By applying forces to the materials or components and measuring the strain, the breaking and yield stress are measured and Young’s modulus determined.
However, these measurements do not tell engineers what is happening deep within the material, such as why components break at certain places and why some methods of processing lead to better components.
At the ISIS facility engineers have been exploiting neutron diffraction to answer these questions by obtaining an atomic view of the way in which materials and components behave.