The University of Southampton

SESG6040 Failure of Materials and Components

Module Overview

In this module, the emphasis moves away from alloy development and design, and focuses on the performance of structural materials in a range of engineering applications. The lectures draw on examples from applications of ceramics, steel, Al, Ti and Ni based alloys, and compares this with the performance of composites: polymer matrix, metal matrix and ceramic matrix systems. Engineering assessment of each failure problem is described and the associated micromechanical failure modes, understanding of which allows improved materials design and selection for a wide range of service environments.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Enable students to appreciate how and why materials may fail in service, developing awareness of quality issues. • Make students aware of how design and manufacturing influence the susceptibility of materials to fail by the various failure modes. • Develop an understanding of the in-service behaviour of load bearing structural materials and the role of this behaviour in materials selection, thus ensuring the fitness for purpose in terms of operation and maintenance.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • In-service performance of commercial materials and be able to extend this to the performance of composite systems
  • Why components/structures can give unsatisfactory service
  • What can be done to improve the in-service performance of components/structures, and thus promoting sustainable development through extending service lifetimes
  • Issues involved in predicting the fatigue strength of a component, bolted structure and welded structure
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse key factors influencing materials failure: evaluate complex materials/structural failure situations and propose appropriate engineering solutions
  • Work as materials specialist within a design context
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Assess fractographic images in some detail
  • Predict how a component/structure would behave under given service conditions
  • Predict the fatigue strength of a component with a complex geometry, a bolted structure and a welded structure.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe failure micromechanisms occurring for a range of service conditions
  • Relate these failure micromechanisms to optimised materials microstructures
  • Assess likely service failures for a range of service conditions
  • Identify appropriate testing approaches to evaluate materials' service performance
  • Analyse complex service failure problems and apply the correct fracture mechanics approach
  • Propose appropriate lifing methodologies for service applications
  • Critically analyse the factors affecting component/structure performance


• Introduction to the course: excessive deformation, introduction to composite classes (3 lectures). • Micromechanisms of failure in materials (3 lectures). • Fracture and fracture mechanics, toughening mechanisms in ceramics and composites, probabilistic failure assessment (6 lectures). • Fatigue: total life and damage tolerant approaches, persistent slip band formation, stage I and II crack growth, closure mechanisms, long and short crack behaviour, fatigue in ceramics, composites and hybrid laminates (5 lectures). • Performance of components and structures subjected to mechanical stresses.The influence of design and manufacturing processes on service performance will be examined and the importance of defects and residual stresses associated with manufacturing processes emphasised. A detailed case study on the performance of joints will be undertaken to demonstrate how the fatigue performance of welded and mechanically fastened joints is related to the quality and design of the joint (6 lectures). • Performance of components and structures subjected to environmental effects. Corrosion, stress corrosion cracking and hydrogen induced failures will be analysed and the methods of preventing these failure modes by correct alloy selection, stainless steels, design and the use of surface coatings, e.g. paints, metallic coatings discussed. (4 lectures). • The performance of materials at elevated temperatures will be considered: high temperature fatigue, creep, oxidation, high temperature corrosion and liquid metal embrittlement will be discussed. (3 lectures). • Industrial guest lecture (1 lecture). • Mid-course classroom quiz (‘pub quiz) (1 lecture). • Revision lectures (2 lectures).

Special Features


Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lectures which develop the themes described in this module. Skeleton notes are given out at the start of the course, which means you only have to note down the key points during the lecture, but still have a full set of notes to work from. • Additional research review papers are provided to give an overview of the themes of the course. • Case study forms part of the lectures. • Industrial guest lecture addresses industrial context and applications. Learning activities include • Access to past paper exam question bank • Small group self-marked classroom quiz (‘pub quiz’) • Individual work on question sheets supported by surgery sessions & revision lectures • Revision questions set by both lecturers which are intended for small group self-study teams

Completion of assessment task16
Wider reading or practice70
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

William D. Callister (2002). Materials Science and Engineering, an Introduction,. 

S. Suresh (1988). Fatigue of Materials. 

Metals Handbook, volume 11 Failure Analysis and Prevention and volume 13. 


Assessment Strategy





MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 20%
Exam  (120 minutes) 80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite Part II Materials and Structures or equivalent.


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

FEEG2005Materials and Structures
Share this module Facebook Google+ Twitter Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.