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DOI : 10.2240/azojomo0152

Materials Engineering Education and Research in Malaysia

 

Ahmad Fauzi Mohd Noor

 

Copyright AD-TECH; licensee AZoM.com Pty Ltd.

This is an AZo Open Access Rewards System (AZo-OARS) article distributed under the terms of the AZo–OARS https://www.azom.com/oars.asp which permits unrestricted use provided the original work is properly cited but is limited to non-commercial distribution and reproduction.

 

Posted: September 2005

Topics Covered

Abstract

Keywords

Materials Engineering Education

Status of R&D on Engineering/Advanced Materials in Malaysia

Research Activities

Ceramics and Glasses

Metals, Semiconductors and Alloys

Composites

Polymers and Polymer Composites

Sensors

Techniques and Others

Other Research Grants and Sponsorships

Intel Research Grant

JICA-AUN-seednet Grant

Nippon Sheet Glass

G-to-G Funding

Human Resources Statistics in R&D in year 2000 [3]

Conclusions

Acknowledgements

References

Contact Details

Abstract

Much efforts and funding by the government and private sectors are being allocated towards achieving Malaysia as a centre of education in South East Asia region. Presently, there are 17 public and 4 private universities and hundreds of colleges in the country which offer ranges of courses, from technical and engineering to arts and management courses.  However, there are less than 10 such academic institutions that are involved in Materials Engineering.  The USM being the first institution to do so with the current intake of 100 students a year.  The training and education must be related to present and future development of related industries and as such the programs created must have some versatility.  Besides undergraduate teaching at various levels (i.e. diploma and bachelor degree), these Universities are also actively involved with R&D in Materials Engineering, ranging from ceramics, metallurgy, polymer and composite materials.  There have always been various platforms for meetings between groups of researchers.  There are also several research institutes working on engineering materials, namely Standard Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) and Malaysian Institute of Nuclear Technology (MINT), and collaborative efforts between universities and such institutions are in place.  There are also strong efforts by the government to promote various industries to work on R&D with these institutions and various sources of funding are available.  These smart partnerships would lead to optimization of use of manpower, funding and facilities.  Research and projects are being funded in many ways, either by the individual institutions, government funds or other local and foreign sponsors.  These includes short and long term grants by various universities, the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment grant for Intensification of Research in Priority Areas (IRPA), Nippon Sheet Glass Grant, TORAY grant, Intel Research Grant, Japan International Cooperation Agency - Association of South East Asian Nations (JICA-ASEAN) universities research sponsorship and many others.  Amongst the area of focus are electronic materials, functional materials, polymeric materials and composites with the research themes including nanomaterials, photonics and optics, light weight metallic alloys, structural composites for oil and gas, materials based-sensors and biomaterials.  Research having potential in enhancing the country’s socio-economic position, having potential to be commercialize or towards knowledge enhancement are preferred.

Keywords

Research, Education, Malaysia,

Materials Engineering Education

Education in Materials Engineering or is it in Engineering Materials? The two terms imply two different meanings, concepts and approaches.  The former involves the knowledge of engineering in the process and development of materials (it may be for the production of conventional or traditional materials to materials used in advanced applications).  This would include knowledge such as cold and hot working as well as heat treatment in metal forming, mixing-milling as well as various forming methods and sintering in the field of ceramics.  The engineering materials would evolve around materials that are used typically for engineering purposes or advanced application, such as engineering ceramics and composites for high temperature applications (alumina, zirconia, carbides and nitrides and their composites), polymer composites, light weight metal alloys and inter-metallic compounds.  Fabrication of new or advanced materials requires advanced technology and investigation of novel functions of the materials which would be based upon scientific guiding principles in physics, chemistry or other related disciplines such as materials science.  Advanced materials based on nanostructure and associated processing technologies have opened up exciting new possibilities for future applications in aerospace, automotives, electronics, coatings, nonvolatile memories, sensors, actuators, optoelectronics, drug delivery etc.  These are due to the fact that the fundamental physical, mechanical, magnetic and biological properties are remarkably improved as the size of their constituent grains decreases to a nanometer scale [1].

In Malaysia, the basic knowledge of materials has actually been introduced as early as Year 4 in primary schools and in secondary education.  This would include, to a certain extent, types of materials, properties and applications.  However, the field of Materials had not really been appreciated in the higher institutions as there are only several universities exploiting the field.  Out of the 17 public universities, 4 private universities and hundreds of colleges, there are actually about 10 such institutions presently embarking in the field of materials.  The main institutions are:

         Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)

         National Universiti Of Malaysia (UKM)

         Universiti Malaya (UM)

         Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

         International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)

         Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM)

         University of Petronas (UTP)

         And some other new institutions such as KUITHO, KUKUM etc

The approaches by each institution vary from one to another.  In some universities, the materials program is a full bloom engineering degree or science degree (USM, UIAM, KUKUM, UM) whilst the others offer materials as a partial program, typically associated with Mechanical Engineering or the sciences (Physics or Chemistry).  As a degree program, each institution develops their own concept, either a broad or focus program.  To be accredited, an engineering program, nevertheless, requires fulfilling the requirement by Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM). 

School of Materials and Mineral Resources Engineering, USM has been honored by the Ministry of Education Malaysia to be the first institution to embark in the field of materials [2].  The program started in 1975 as an applied science and technology-based before shifting to an engineering program in 1984 with its first intake of 10 candidates.  The Bachelor of Engineering (Materials Engineering) is a 4-year degree program and the first batch of graduate received their degree in 1988.  The program has gone through various cycles and changes (due to the political, economic scenario and requirement by Board of Engineers, BEM) before settling down with the present curriculum (refer Table 1) with a yearly intake of about 100 students.  The school is also currently offering two other degree programs, i.e. Bachelor of Engineering (Mineral Resources Engineering) and Bachelor of Engineering (Polymer Engineering).

Table 1a. Curiculum For Bachelor Of Engineering (Materials Engineering) levels 100 and 200.

TYPE OF COURSE

Level 100

Level 200

Semester 1

Semester 2

Semester 1

Semester 2

CORE

Engineering

Maths (4)

Physical Chem. of Eng. Materials (3)

Engineers in

Soc. (3)

Materials

Properties Lab (2)

Engineering Mechanics (3)

Strength of Materials (3)

Engineering Materials Design (3)

Semiconducting Materials (3)

Engineering Materials (3)

 

Engineering Statistics and Numerical Method (4)

Physical

Metallurgy (4)

Crystallography and Solid Bondings (3)

Engineering Drawing (2)

Engineering Pract. (2)

Raw Materials

and Structure

Ceramics (4)

Process Control (2)

Materials Lab (2)

Elect. Technology (3)

 

Computing for Engineers (2)

 

 

 

Polymer Engineering (3)

 

14

15

14

15

 

<———

<———

<———

<———

<———

Malay Language (2)

English Language/Option (4)

Co-curriculum/Option (3)

Civilisation of Islam and Asia (4)

Skills/Analytical/Option (2)

———>

———>

———>

———>

———>

               

Table 1a. Curiculum For Bachelor Of Engineering (Materials Engineering) levels 300 and 400.

TYPE OF COURSE

Level 300

 

Level 400

Semester 1

Semester 2

 

Semester 1

Semester 2

CORE

Microscopy Lab (2)

Corrosion and Degradation (3)

I

N

D

U

S

T

R

I

A

L

NDT and Failure Analysis (3)

Selection of Materials (3)

Mech. Metallurgy (4)

Quality Control (3)

Applied

Metallurgy (4)

Final Yr. Project (6)

Whiteware and Glass (4)

Advanced Materials and Composites (4)

Technical

Ceramics (4)

 

Materials Characterisation Techniques (3)

Materials

Processing Lab (2)

 

 

 

13

12

5

11

9

 

<———

<———

<———

<———

<———

Malay Language (2)

English Language/Option (4)

Co-curriculum/Option (3)

Civilisation of Islam and Asia (4)

Skills/Analytical/Option (2)

———>

———>

———>

———>

———>

ELECTIVE

Transport Process (3)

Pyrometallurgy (3)

T

R

A

I

N

I

N

G

Opto-electronics and Semi-conductor Devices (3)

Fluid Power and Turbo Machine (3)

Semicond.

Fabrication Process

Fluid Mechanics (3)

Polymer Engineering and Technology (3)

Ceramic Design and Development (3)

Engineering

Management (2)

Materials Thermodynamics (3)

 

 

             

Note: Students must complete 135 units (shown in brackets) for graduation, made up of 108 core units (including 5 units of industrial training), 15 general units and 12 elective units.

The Materials Engineering program would focus on the various materials like metals, ceramics, polymer and their composites as well as the electronic and semi-conducting materials.  The emphasis would be on materials processing and production, quality control and properties of materials as well as selection of materials for suitable applications.  The program would also include basic common engineering subjects, university subjects (include languages, co-curriculum and skill-related subject) and economics-management related subjects.  The program is designed to fulfill the requirement set by BEM (amongst which is a minimum of 80 units of engineering courses and 40 units on non-engineering subjects) and to comply with the Washington Accord for engineering courses.  The objective of the program is to produce professionally, well-balanced qualified Materials Engineer, knowledgeable and highly-skilled, whom would be competitive locally and internationally.  To ensure that the program is related to present and future development of various industries, the program created does have some versatility approach.  The program is also designed with the guidance of an appointed External Examiner (appointment is on yearly basis and can be extended over a period of not more than six years).

In line with good education, the School has been offering research programs leading to the award of M.Sc. and Ph.D.. There is also a one-year M.Sc. Mixed-mode program (Taught course) for Materials Engineering which presently is popular in demand, and recently has received support from JICA-AUNseednet program with the sponsorship of several candidates from ASEAN region.  To ensure good teaching and research, the school is equipped with reasonable range of equipment such as SEM (with EDAX), XRD, XRF, Thermal analyzer, CIP, HIP, FTIR, PSD, range of furnaces (1200°C – 1800°C), injection molding, various hardness testers, etc.

Status of R&D on Engineering/Advanced Materials in Malaysia

Research Activities

R&D in advanced materials is mainly carried out at the Institute of Higher learning (such as Universiti Sains Malaysia USM, National Universiti of Malaysia UKM, University Malaya UM, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia UTM, Universiti Petronas UTP and Universiti Putra Malaysia UPM) and the corporate entities such as SIRIM-AMREC, Malaysian Technology Park, Malaysian Institute of Nuclear Technology MINT, Petronas Scientific Research Institute and Tenaga National Research Center [3].  The private sector’s involvement in R&D in advanced materials is minimal due to the fact that most industries related to advanced materials are not locals and hence the R&D are carried out in the parent company with the exception of several multinational companies (such as Intel, Motorola, Argilent, Proton, etc.)

The support for R&D activities in the public research institutions and the universities in Malaysia is mainly provided by the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment (MOSTE) through its core program, i.e. Intensification of Research in Priority Areas Program (IRPA) [3].  The IRPA programs are classified under three categories;

         Strategic Research (SR)

         Prioritised Research (PR), and

         Experimental and Applied Research (EAR).

R&D in advanced or engineering materials tended to be categorized under the SR and EAR.  The number of projects/programs carried out during 7th Malaysia Plan (or RM), i.e. between 1996 - 2000, was 115 with the total amount of funding to be worth about US$10 million. 

At the beginning of 2003, more than 70% of the US$235 million allocated for IRPA projects under the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005) has been allocated for projects under the SR, PR and EAR categories.  The amount allocated to R&D in advanced materials is about US$42 million.  Table 2 provides a summary of the allocation of fund for various fields of advanced materials in the 7th and 8th Malaysia Plans (RM).

         There is a 3 fold increase in total grant allocation in RM8 as compared to RM7

         Research in the field of Ceramics and Glass has increased by 4 times in RM8 as compared to RM7 (and this is attributed to the advancement and progress in the related industry, particularly the semiconductor and electronics)

         In terms of funding, research in the field of Ceramics and Glass also dominates the other fields

         Research interest in the field of metals and alloys has also increased tremendously, about 15 times

         Although the number of projects has reduced in RM8, however with the introduction of Strategic Research (SR) and Prioritized Research (PR) the magnitude of allocation in those programs is large as compared to the project funded under Experimental and Applied Research (EAR).

Table 2. Allocation of Research Grant (US$ million).  Figures in parenthesis refer to the number of projects or programs.

Fields

No. Project

RM7(1996-2000)

No. Project

RM8(2001-2005)

No. Project

Total

Metals, Semiconductors and Alloys

31

1.96

20

15.85

51

17.81

Ceramics and Glasses

55

5.03

38

20.00

93

25.03

Composites

54

3.55

34

2.14

84

5.69

Polymers

26

1.09

18

2.29

44

3.38

Techniques and Others

17

1.18

12

1.05

29

2.23

Total

183

12.81

122

41.33

305

54.14

Figure 1 shows the two major areas of R&D in materials and advanced materials during the last RM7 and the current RM8.  The strength of research in Malaysia is in the field of ceramics and glass.  The infrastructure as required by this area of research is not as sophisticated as that in other fields.  The next major area is in the metals, semiconductors and alloys.

AZoJoMo - AZoM Journal of Materials Online - IRPA allocation for RM7 and RM8.

Figure 1. IRPA allocation for RM7 and RM8.

Thus far, programs approved under Strategic Research SR category are in the field of [3]:

         Photonic Study (University Malaya -lead university) – 4 projects (US$5.7 million)

         Catalysis Development (University Technology Malaysia - lead university)  – 9 projects (US$2.9 million)

         Catalysis (University Malaya - lead university) – 5 projects (US$14 million)

         Advanced optical materials  (University Technology Malaysia - lead university)  – 6 projects (US$3.3 million)

         Blue light emitting devices (University Sains Malaysia - lead university) – 4 projects (US$5.9 million)

         MEMS technology (University Kebangsaan Malaysia - lead university) – 7 projects (US$10 million)

         Development of Bone Graft Substituties Based On Calcium Phosphate Bioceramics  (MINT/USM – lead institution)

Some of the other topics of research under the various categories are given below. 

Ceramics and Glasses

1.      High temperature superconducting materials and device structures

2.      Development and application of giant magnetostrictive and giant magnetoresistive materials

3.      Development of ceramic thin layer bonding material for joining of ceramic to metal for high temperature and chemically harsh environment applications

4.      Development of biomedical implants derived from the synthesises of hydroxyapatite material

5.      Synthesis of a strength improved dense hydroxyapatite as an implant material

6.      Preparation and characterization of new ceramic materials as fast ion conductors

7.      Development of Advanced opto-electronic materials

8.      The production and industrial application of “Silspar”, an innovative raw materials for ceramic industry

9.      Research and development of electro-conductive materials for storage batteries

10.  Preparation and characterisation of sol-gel based sensing materials for optical fibre sensor development

11.  Development of scratch and abrasion resistant materials by radiation curing

12.  Reformulation of a high strength and machineable hydroxyapatite advanced ceramic biomaterial

13.  Preparation and characterization of bismuth-based oxide ion conductors as new sensor materials

14.  Development of high voltage electroceramic material from local clay & minerals for fuse barrel & insulator applications

15.  Development and performance of ceramic metal bonding to improve structural materials

16.  Development of heat mirror and rear view mirror coatings on glass by sol-gel techniques

Metals, Semiconductors and Alloys

1.      Prediction of tool life in machining of aerospace material: titanium alloy Ti-6242

2.      Development of novel engineering materials based on shape memory alloys (SMA’s)

3.      Performance evaluation of carbide tools on machining aerospace materials-titanium alloys

4.      Development of spherical isotropic magnetic materials by atomization process

5.      Synthesis and properties of hard and wear resistance materials for industrial application (synmetals).

6.      Development of coconut and palm shell based activated carbon electrode materials for the selective electrode position of heavy metals from wastewaters

7.      Surface integrity investigation of the machined surface of aerospace material : Titanium alloy Ti-6242

8.      Electrochemical synthesis and characterizations of metal chalcogenide thin films

Composites

1.      Development of nano-structures materials and nano-composite

2.      Design of diamond coated cutting tools technique for machining composite materials

3.      Application of spray deposition (forming) process for the production of high performance materials and metal matrix composite for engineering structure and components

4.      A study on the use of new ceramic composite as alternative materials for metal cutting tools

5.      Development and performance of ceramic-metal bonding to improve structural materials

6.      Development of advanced polymeric composites based on carbon -epoxy and glass-epoxy materials produced by autoclaves and out-of autoclaves techniques

7.      Development of aluminium composite incorporating fly ash as reinforcement material using stir casting technique

8.      Long-term performance of externally bonded fibre reinforced polymer composites (frp) as strengthening material for reinforced concrete beam

9.      Development of a bioactive composite material through the combination of ceramic reinforcement and polyolefin for biomedical applications

10.  Lightweight load-bearing composite profiled steel sheeting/dryboard panels as alternative building construction materials

Polymers and Polymer Composites

1.      Optimization of polymeric materials through recycling

2.      Development of impact enhanced & biodegradable polymeric materials

3.      Development of polymeric solid electrolyte materials

4.      Production, characterisation and industrial applications of poly(hydroxyalkanoates) a biodegradable and biocompatible plastic material from natural renewable resources

5.      Development of environmentally degradable polymeric materials (plastics) from sago starch for agricultural and medical industries

6.      Preparation and characterisation of biodegradable materials from non-biodegradable polymers and sago starch

7.      Development of super-thermal conductive plastics materials for bulk packaging of refrigerated food.

8.      Rational synthesis of novel side-group liquid crystal polymers for optical data storage materials

9.      Molecular engineering in organic materials for optoelectronics and electronics devices.

10.  Electrochemical studies of some organic superconducting (synmetals) materials

11.  Development of UV-curable polymers from local raw materials

12.  Environmental friendly utilisation of oil palm lignocellulosic wastes as raw materials for papermaking

13.  Development of a cost-effective, multicomponents degradable plastics, through the combination of sogo starch and polyethylene/poly (e-caprolactone) blender

14.  Development of a cost-effective, modified polypropylene composites with multicomponent filler reinforcement (based on calcium carbonate) for automotive application

15.  Production of COFIT based woven thermoplastic composite.

Sensors

1.      Radiation sensor, gas sensor, chemical sensor, electronic nose

2.      Development of industrial biosensor

3.      SnO2- based ceramic as gas sensor development of distributed optical fibre sensor system.

4.      Development of herbicide detection method in water using micro algae as a biosensor

5.      Development and characterization of optical sensors based on evanescent wave phenomena.

6.      On-line measurement of palm oil quality by optical sensors.   

7.      Fabrication and characterization electroactive materials for sensor .

Techniques and Others

1.      Structural studies on materials of technological importance by X-ray diffraction

2.      Development and production of indigenous vibro-acoustic control materials and systems

3.      Development and evaluation of new transient diverging thermal wave technique to study thermal anisotropy of composite materials

4.      Fabrication of a portable thick film hybrid modular device for quality assessment of raw materials and end product in industries related to food beverages, confectioneries, herbals and pharmaceuticals

5.      Development of mobile new microwave nondestructive testing (MNDT) techniques for evaluation of composite materials

6.      Characterization of photonic materials

7.      Phase characterization and thermodynamic modeling of soft-condensed materials

8.      Determination of thermal diffusivity and conductivity of selected solid ceramic and polymer materials at elevated temperatures

Other Research Grants and Sponsorships

Besides the large funding from MOSTE, researchers in the field of materials can also explore funds for their project through other avenues.  This would include grants from industries, G to G, JICA funding, TORAY Grant and Nippon Sheet Glass.  Some of the projects funded (to USM researchers) are [2]:

         Intel Research Grant

         JICA-AUN-seednet Grant

         Nippon Sheet Glass

         G-to-G Funding

Intel Research Grant

1.      synthesis and characterization of advance nanostructure pyroelectric smart material

2.      Enhancement of integrity and functional efficiency of the underfill between silicon die

3.      Influence of an contamination on Sn-Sb lead free solder for flip chip grid array

4.      Kinetics of thin film reaction & microstructure formation between PbSn solder with NiV (N)

JICA-AUN-seednet Grant

1.      Synthesis and characterisation of vanadium-based nanotube

2.      Influence of intermetallic phase development on the properties of lead free solder

Nippon Sheet Glass

1.      Development of Ca Phosphate glass bioceramics

2.      Synthesis ands characterization of nanocrystalline PLZT

G-to-G Funding

G-to-G funding, amongst which are:

1.      Malaysia-Hungary S&T International Corporation Program

i. Bioactive composites of HA-filled PE blends

2.      Commonwealth research fundings

Human Resources Statistics in R&D in year 2000 [3]

         Researchers per 10,000 labour force – 15.6

         Researchers per 10,000 population   -   6.4

         Head count (researchers, technicians & others) – 23,262

         Doctorates from Universities, 1994-2000

o        Natural Sciences –235

o        Engineering & Technology-195

         Masters from Universities, 1994-2000

o        Natural Sciences –1,162

o        Engineering & Technology-1,542

From the data, the number that is estimated to be in the field of advanced materials is:

         Researchers 150-200.

         Ph. D in Materials: about 50

         Masters in Materials: 300

Conclusions

i)        Formal education on materials engineering are not so widely spread.  There are not many institutions of higher learning in Malaysia embarking on similar program as compared to other engineering programs.  

ii)      Research in the field of ceramics and glass (this also includes photonics and catalysis) dominates the other fields. 

iii)     Research in Metals, alloys, composite and polymer would be geared to support the national automobile industries.  Currently, the amount of research done in this field is minimal and not focused to those needs.

iv)    New program such as Nanoscience and Nanotechnology to strengthen and inject new directions in Materials Research.

v)     Currently, only a few research institution are quite well-equipped with the state-of- the art facilities, especially related to high technology and sophisticated equipment.  As a nation, these may impede research progress and competitiveness in the field of materials.

vi)    Equipment is expensive and support group for maintenance are generally not so strong.

vii)  R&D in the field of materials is essentially searching for new knowledge rather than commercialization.  Research having potential in enhancing the country’s socio-economic position, having potential to be commercialized or towards knowledge enhancement are preferred.

Acknowledgements

This presentation was sponsored by the 21st Century COE Program of Nagaoka University of Technology for “The 1st Regional Workshop at Hanoi”.

References

1.       MASTIC, Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, 2000 Malaysia Science and Technology, Indicators Report, 2000.

2.       Reports from School Of Materials and Mineral Resources Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia (2002/2003)

3.       National Symposium on Science and Technology, 2003 (Kuala Lumpur)

Contact Details

Ahmad Fauzi Mohd Noor

 

School of Material and Mineral Resources Engineering

Universiti Sains Malaysia

Engineering Campus, (USM)

14300 Nibong Tebal, Penang

Malaysia

 

Email: [email protected]

 

This paper was also published in print form in “Advances in Technology of Materials and Materials Processing”, 6[1] (2004) 107-114.

 

 

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