Without materials there is no engineering. This maxim highlights the importance of materials to the field of engineering. The department of Metallurgical Engineering was established in 1959, the same year IIT Madras was established. The name was changed from Metallurgical Engineering to Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, in 2003, to reflect the growing diversity of areas in which the faculty members of the department work in.
Why is metallurgical and materials engineering important? Materials underline the basics of every engineering and science discipline. Materials development is an essential part of major industries like aerospace, automotive, biomedical, chemical, electronics, and energy. New technologies are dependent on the understanding and manipulation of materials properties. In the automotive industry, new energy efficient cars, are made possible due to the development of light weight materials like aluminum alloys, with resin bonded composite body panels, for dent and scratch resistance. Similarly, new technologies in the electronics industry, from mobiles to tablets to wearable devices, are driven by new materials, replacing silicon. Steel is still the largest consumed structural material and there is plenty of work going on to develop new steel alloys, drive again by metallurgists. Bio materials are increasingly becoming important in the medical industry, starting from new alloys for dental and bone implants to new materials for drug delivery.
What does a metallurgical and materials engineer study? Students in this field will be exposed to the full spectrum of materials, starting from their extraction, purification, and alloy formation, including measurement of their structural and functional properties. The arrangement of atoms in a material, at different length scales, determines the properties. Understanding this structure-property correlation is essential for every metallurgist. Students will be trained in a variety of characterization tools, which show the structure at the micron scale, zooming in to individual atoms. With the rapid development in computational power, students will also have access to a variety of software, to simulate the behavior of materials under different environments. This will help them develop new materials and alloy systems.
Overall, the dept. of metallurgical and materials engineering provides students with a comprehensive education in the field. Materials underline the development in every field of engineering and the curriculum will provide the necessary base to specialize in their chosen area.