Insights from industry

Characterization of Materials, 2nd Edition

Following the release of the 2nd edition of ‘Characterization of Materials’, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Elton N. Kaufmann talks to AZoM.

Please could you give a brief overview of the new 2nd edition of ‘Characterization of Materials’? What’s new in this edition over and above previous editions?

The 2nd edition is very much expanded compared to the first edition which came out a decade ago. We’ve added about 50 new articles distributed throughout the 14 chapters of the book. A chapter covering scanning-probe methods is itself a new addition. And, nearly all of the original articles from the first edition have been updated substantially, either by their original authors or by a new cadre of experts in their respective fields.

Who is the book primarily aimed at?

Actually, we can identify two rather different categories of readers who will find Characterization of Materials useful. First, of course, there are the graduate students and post-doctoral researchers who are just starting out. These volumes provide them with quite helpful context-setting tutorial-style articles that serve as entry points to further more detailed study and eventual application of their method of choice.

Then there are the more senior researchers who want to become what I like to call “enlightened collaborators.” More often than not, an in-depth study of a materials system requires several, sometimes widely differing measurement techniques. No one researcher is likely to be expert in the application of them all. When they seek the collaboration of a true expert, they still must acquire sufficient knowledge of the method to ask the right questions and to have a critical understanding of the results. We believe Characterization of Materials provides just such necessary understanding.

What are the principal topics covered by the book? And how is the Book structured to help Materials scientists with their work?

Coverage ranges from what might be considered the more mature classical methods, such as thermal, electrical and electronic, optical, mechanical, magnetic and electrochemical, to indirect techniques like nuclear resonance, and on to methods that depend on medium to large facilities that supply neutrons, x-rays, ion-beams and electron beams as probes of materials properties. There is also a chapter that treats computation and theoretical methods. Theory has always been a critical component of the field as it both leads to new experiments and also validates and explains current observations. As experimental approaches become more expensive and computing power increases by orders of magnitude, computational alternatives have become even more important.

Articles in Characterization of Materials are organized with our likely readers in mind. With minor variations, each experimental article places its own method in context with respect to the properties it can measure and the alternative, complementary or competing techniques that may accomplish the same or similar property measurements. Readers can therefore determine up front if they are in the right place for their particular needs. Then followed by an exposition of the principles of a method, its practical application, including sample preparation, method automation, and data interpretation, an essential section on “problems” is there to help researchers avoid the common pitfalls and missteps in actual practice.

Characterization of Materials helps material scientists and material professionals identify the most appropriate characterization technique for a range of applications. How does the book guide these professionals in line with their project work?

I would say that the introductory information that each article provides is the best guide for the professional seeking the most effective measurement method for a specific project. Beyond that, finding a property of interest in the book’s subject index or from a search of its content on-line, is a good alternative path to one or more useful articles for measuring that particular property.

What are the new characterization methods included in this edition?

We should distinguish between truly new methods and those new to our Characterization of Materials volumes. A few examples of topics new to these volumes are, for example, measurement of porosity, microelectromechanical devices as measurement tools, high-temperature drop calorimetry, electrochemical microelectrodes, dynamic light scattering, x-ray computed tomography, fluctuation electron microscopy, neutron reflectometry, as well as several scanning probe techniques.

We know that it's quite rare that a truly new method arrives. Rather we see extensions and expansions of existing techniques that increase sensitivity, resolution, speed, and reach to new classes of materials. Years of usually incremental improvements are the norm, but the occasional revolutionary advance, such as in aberration corrected electron microscopy, does occur.

How has the recent development of nanotechnology and advanced microscopy influenced the science of material characterization?

Your question certainly points to fields where notable advances have been seen. Indeed, brighter and more coherent light sources and more powerful light and electron microscopy are next-generation tools at our disposal right now. But your mention of nanotechnology moves me to rephrase your question, if I might. Rather than thinking of materials characterization as a science in its own right, I look at it as a collection of methods that move forward alongside, and as a result of, the very science they study.

It's a very symbiotic relationship. Every jump forward in the power of a characterization technique rests on new understanding of the underlying science, new ways to implement a corresponding and supporting technology, and the ingenuity of researchers who see how to exploit those advances.

Apart from materials science, what other areas of research would benefit from using this book?

It may seem a bit simplistic to say that any area that involves materials of any kind will benefit, but that is in fact the case. And that's largely because materials science itself encompasses a wide swath of science and engineering disciplines. Perhaps it is more properly called materials research rather than science. Every physical science, with some overlap into bioscience, relies on one or several methods covered in the book. And, whether directly or indirectly, most engineering fields also involve materials performance that in turn rests on manipulation and measurement of materials properties. From the girders of our bridges to the microcircuits in our mobile devices to timed-release drug delivery systems, and everything in between, well-characterized advanced materials have led and will lead the way forward.

Who are the main contributors to the book, and could you tell us a little bit more about their areas of expertise?

As editor-in-chief of the Work, my greatest personal rewards have derived from collaborating with all of the contributors. Twelve leaders in their respective fields have pitched in as editors of individual chapters. They are not only experts regarding the measurement instruments but also, as leading researchers themselves, in their use for addressing the most current questions in materials research.

They in turn have identified the expert authors who could simultaneously best address the technical content of a method's application while writing in a fully accessible tutorial style. The published list of contributors speaks for itself. They come from academic, industrial and governmental R&D institutions and facilities based in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

I would only call out by name two leaders. Taken together, the foreword to the first edition by the late Frederick Seitz and to the second edition by Shirley A. Jackson provide an invaluable perspective on the role of advanced materials in our high-tech culture and the importance of new and better ways to characterize them.

Looking to the future, how do you see Material Characterization techniques improving? Will there be significant shifts in technology?

In many directions, it is safe to predict significant improvements. First of course is the trend toward smaller, faster, boundary-blurring advances. Observing and exploiting nano-level phenomena will become ubiquitous. Ultra-fast snapshots of materials behaviours at a molecular level will become routine. And the multidisciplinary applicability of methods will broaden and incite ever greater collaboration across formerly disparate fields. Computing power reaching the exascale, massive data storage, transfer and analysis algorithms arising, and next-generation multinational large facilities being built will support those new and better tools. I don't doubt that revolutionary paradigm-shifting advances may also impact this field.

Just when those of us without crystal balls cannot imagine anything terribly new on the materials horizon, we are stunned by such discoveries as high-temperature superconductors, quasicrystals, graphene, etc. I am quite optimistic about the more obvious foreseeable advances as well as the advent of unexpectedly new and better tools for understanding materials.

Lastly, where can people find more information about the book and where can it be purchased?

A link to the print edition is:,subjectCd-CH10.html

The on-line version may be accessed at:

I expect any internet search engine will find these and other distribution channels for the book.

Thanks very much for this opportunity to talk about the new edition of Characterization of Materials.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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