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The University of Southampton

SESG6044 Microstructural and Surface Characterisation

Module Overview

This module on microstructural analysis and surface characterisation of materials and components considers Surface Profilometry, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), optical microscopy, diffraction techiniques, energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDX), and a range of other techniques. For each technique, the aspects covered include: relevant theoretical background, sample preparation, equipment capabilities and limitation of the techniques. Examples of usage are drawn mainly from materials used in aerospace, automotive and marine industries. As part of the module either a laboratory involving hands on use of the SEM and/or TEM can be taken or, alternatively, a coursework on the interpretation of microstructural analysis and surface characterisation from literature can be elected.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The application of Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), optical microscopy, Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD), Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis (EDX) and surface profilometry techniques to engineering materials.
  • Crystallography of crystalline materials
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Appreciate the capabilities of different analysis techniques for characterising the microstructure and surface of materials and components.
  • Analyse (parts of) technical reports and scientific papers that relate to microstructure and surface analysis.
  • Make an assessment as to whether available data constitutes a definite identification of a phase / structure
  • Depending on the selection of final assignment either to be able to operate an electron microscope or to analyse academic and technical literature containing electron microscopy and crystallography data.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Contribute materials microstructure and surface characterisation knowledge as part of teams in most engineering industries.
  • Have an improved capability to learn following web-based, self-paced means.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Start hands-on training on use of microstructure analysis equipment that has been discussed in the lectures, including TEM, SEM, optical microscopy, EBSD, EDX, Surface Profilometry and use what is learned in the module to understand the principle of the working of the equipment.
  • Select appropriate sample preparation techniques for optical microscopy, SEM, TEM, Surface Profilometry.
  • Recognize and assess the relevance of some of the common microstructural features in structural materials observed by optical microscopy, SEM, TEM, Surface Profilometry.


The module consists of 10 sections. Sections 1 to 10 are taken by all students. To complete the module students select either section 11 or section 12. Section 1 Overview. Section 2 Optical Microscopy. Section 3 Surface Optical Profilometry, AFM and Surface Chemical Analysis. Section 4 Nano indentation. Section 5 Scanning Electron Microscopy. Section 6 Transmission Electron Microscopy. Section 7 Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy. Section 8 Crystallography and Electron diffraction. Section 9 Electron Backscatter Diffraction. Section 10 3D techniques: 3DAP, tomography. Section 11 Electron microscopy laboratory. Section 12 XPS, XRD, FIB and scientific report analysis.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - The module is predominantly self-paced. The module starts with a group meeting to introduce the module followed by 3 progress meetings. - The main component of the teaching is web-based, through the 'Blackboard' package ( This provides the main text of the course, with additional teaching material in the form of links to relevant websites, and (links to) relevant research papers. - For Section 11, students will do a supervised laboratory with access to electron microscopes. - 2 revision lectures in the weeks prior to the exam to revise and review the material in the course. Learning activities include - Access to exam question bank. - Revision questions set by lecturers which are intended for (small group) self-study.

Practical classes and workshops8
Completion of assessment task80
Wider reading or practice10
Preparation for scheduled sessions8
Follow-up work16
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list



Assessment Strategy

Notes: External repeat students will take section 12 - XPS, XRD, FIB and scientific report analysis. Feedback includes: - Quizzes on Blackboard which provide instant feedback. - Return of marked coursework with written feedback on each coursework within 15 working days of hand in. - General discussion on each e-mailed questions during the timetabled sessions. - Revision sessions in which past exam questions are discussed based on e-mailed requests from students. - E-mailed responses or additional tutorials by lecturer to e-mailed individual questions


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 60%
Final Assessment  40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: FEEG2005

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