Department Forms and Procedures

MATE Department Equipment


Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) 

Thermoanalytical technique in which the difference in the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a sample and reference is measured as a function of temperature. Can reveal information about the phase transitions and crystallinity in polymers and metals.

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)

Uses infrared radiation to identify chemical bonds in order to identify polymeric materials. Useful in assessing the formation and chemistry of polymeric molecules, as well as the molecular interactions of nanocomposites. 

Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM) 

Microscope that produces high-magnification images of a sample by scanning it with a focused beam of electrons. The electrons interact with atoms in the sample, producing signals that can be detected and that contain information about the sample's surface topography and chemistry. Useful for imaging microstructures and interpreting the causes of failures in materials.

X-Ray Diffractometer (XRD)  

Used for phase identification of a crystaline material and can provide information on unit cell dimensions. Can also be used to determine the extent of crystallinity in polymeric and natural materials.

X-Ray Florescence (XRF) 

Identifies the composition of metallic materials by bombarding a sample with x-rays, causing the atoms in the sample to fluoresce and produce an x-ray signal that can be detected and characterized to determine the metal's chemistry. Useful for alloy identification. 



Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA)

Small samples of material are gradually heated from room temperature until converted to ash under air or inert gas conditions.  The mass of the sample is continuously monitored, allowing detection of the degradation temperature of all constituents in the sample as well as the mass fraction of each constituent.  Allows for the determination of maximum processing temperature and the composition of additives or fillers in the sample.

Dynamic Mechanical Analysis

Polymeric and composite samples are oscillated under load at a fixed or variable frequency while temperature is swept from liquid nitrogen temperatures to up to 600 Celsius.  As the material undergoes molecular and phase transitions, phase lags between the input and output mechanical signals can be used to determine the visco-elastic response of these materials as a function of temperature.  The technique is very useful in determining the suitability of a material for mechanical applications across a range of temperatures, as well as the influence of reinforcements and fillers on polymer behavior.                                              


Capable of measuring the surface energy of a material via the sessile drop technique in which a micro drop of liquid is placed onto the surface of the test material and imaged with a high-resolution camera.  The contact angle between the surface and droplet is used to assess the degree of hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity of the test material.

Mechanical Testing

Hardness Testing

Measure hardness (resistance to localized deformation) of materials' surfaces


Tensile Testing

Material samples of all types are stretched at a fixed rate and the materials response is measured.  The resulting stress-strain diagram can be used to determine critical mechanical properties such stiffness, strength and ductility.


Rough Preparation: Section & Mount

Various material samples are cut (sectioned) and mounted in a hard polymeric material (e.g., Bakelite, acrylic, epoxy), then roughly ground to expose the area to be analyzed. 

Polish & Etch 

Samples are finely polished to obtain a flat, mirror surface, and then selectively corroded (etched) to highlight grain boundaries and features of interest in the material being examined. 

Optical Microscopy & Image Analysis

Polished and etched samples are examined under optical microscopes with specialized software to analyze various features, such as grain size and relative amounts of phases.


Chemical Fume Hoods

Safely allows the use of hazardous chemicals such as acids, bases, solvents, and oxidizers in the synthesis and analysis of materials. 

Heat Treatment Lab

Houses various furnaces used for heat treatment of metals with an operating range from 100 to 1000°C

Additive Manufacturing Lab

Houses MakerBot, AutoDesk Ember, and Conductive Ink 3-D printers for the production of specialized polymeric parts. 


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Contact Us


Materials Engineering Department
1 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Location: 41A-229

Phone: (805) 756-2568


Hours: M-F 8am-5pm

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