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Unit of study_

MECH5311: Microscopy and Microanalysis of Materials

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This UoS offers the fundamental knowledge that is essential for the microscopy and microanalysis of materials. The UoS will cover the basic fundamental concepts of materials structures and modern materials characterisation techniques that are available in Sydney Microscopy and Microanalysis in the University, including X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and atom probe tomography.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MECH5311
Academic unit Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic
Credit points 6
AMME1362 or AMME2302 or AMME9302 or CIVL1110 or CIVL2110 or equivalent study at another institution
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Xiaozhou Liao,
Lecturer(s) Xiaozhou Liao,
Jacob Byrnes,
Matthew Cabral,
Zibin Chen,
Yi-Sheng (Eason) Chen,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Assignment 3
Students will works on questions based on the lectures in weeks 9 -- 13.
Due date: 02 Jun 2023 at 23:59
4 – 5 A4 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO10 LO9 LO6 LO4 LO3 LO2 LO1
Assignment Assignment 1
Students will works on questions based on the lectures in weeks 1 -- 3.
15% Week 05
Due date: 24 Mar 2023 at 23:59
4 – 5 A4 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Assignment 2
Students will works on questions based on the lectures in weeks 4 -- 8.
15% Week 10
Due date: 05 May 2023 at 23:59
4 – 5 A4 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6 LO7 LO8
Presentation group assignment Presentation
Group presentations on materials characterisation using advanced microscopy
15% Week 11
Due date: 12 May 2023 at 09:00
20 min presentation + 5 min Q&A
Outcomes assessed: LO10 LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Assignment Lab report
Students will attend an SEM lab class and submit an individual lab report.
25% Week 11
Due date: 12 May 2023 at 23:59
5 – 6 A4 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO7 LO1 LO3 LO4
Assignment group assignment presentation written report
Essay. A group written report based on students' oral presentation.
15% Week 13
Due date: 26 May 2023 at 23:59
~3,000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO10 LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Seminar and report, and three assignments

Assessment criteria

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59 pm on the due date: • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date. • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Multiple weeks SEM lab class Science laboratory (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO6 LO7
Ongoing Independent study Independent study (110 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 01 Brief review of structures and defects in crystalline materials Lecture (3 hr) LO1
Week 02 Reciprocal space Lecture (3 hr) LO2
Week 03 X-ray diffraction and electron–matter interactions Lecture (3 hr) LO4 LO5
Week 04 Sample preparation for APT, SEM & TEM Lecture (3 hr) LO6
Week 05 Scanning electron microscopy -- the Instrument, back-scattered imaging, secondary electron imaging Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO7
Week 06 Scanning electron microscopy -- Electron backscattered diffraction; Transmission electron microscopy -- the Instrument Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO8 LO9
Week 08 Transmission electron microscopy -- Diffraction, imaging Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO9
Week 09 Transmission electron microscopy -- imaging Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO9
Week 10 Spectroscopy and in-situ microscopy Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 11 Seminar presentation Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Week 12 Atom probe tomography Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO10
Week 13 In-situ microscopy and lab tour Lecture (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

  1. Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction, 10th edition, William D. Callister, Jr. and David G. Rethwisch, Wiley, ISBN 9781119405498
  2. Scanning Electron Microscopy and X-Ray Microanalysis, 3rd edition, Joseph Goldstein, et al., Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, ISBN 978-1-4615-0215-9 (eBook)
  3. Transmission Electron Microscopy, C. Barry Carter and David B. Williams, Spring, ISBN 978-3-319-26651-0 (eBook)
  4. Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy, Stephen J. Pennycook and Peter D. Nellist, Spring, ISBN 978-1-4419-7200-2 (eBook)
  5. Atom Probe Microscopy, Baptiste Gault, Michael P. Moody, Julie M. Cairney, and Simon P. Ringer, Spring, ISBN 978-1-4614-3436-8 (eBook)

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. communicate effectively the microstructures, crystalline structures and crystalline defects of materials in oral and/or written presentations
  • LO2. describe, in relatively simple terms, crystalline lattice structures in reciprocal space, describing theoretically, schematically, and mathematically
  • LO3. communicate effectively several common microstructural characterisation techniques in oral and/or written presentations
  • LO4. describe, in relatively simple terms, the interactions of fast electrons with matter, describing theoretically, schematically, and mathematically
  • LO5. identify crystalline phases using X-ray diffraction and determine crystalline lattice structures using electron diffraction
  • LO6. understand common materials preparation techniques for structural characterisation
  • LO7. understand the basic working mechanism of the scanning electron microscope and microstructural information that can be extracted from electron backscattered images and secondary electron images
  • LO8. understand the basic working mechanism of electron backscatter diffraction and its applications in structural characterisation of materials
  • LO9. understand the basic working mechanisms of the transmission electron microscope, including electron diffraction, imaging and spectrometry, and their applications in materials characterisation
  • LO10. understand the principle, limitations, and niche applications of atom probe tomography and secondary ion mass spectroscopy for microanalysis of materials

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

As we have returned to in-person teaching, I added lab classes in weeks 8 and 9 on Monday -- Thursday afternoons 2 -- 4 pm. I will ask students to pick a lab class date suitable for them. Students will need to submit their individual lab report in 2 weeks after lab class. The weight of each assessment task is revised accordingly.

Site visit guidelines

We will arrange a lab tour to the Australian Center for Microscopy and Microanalysis in Madsen Building and Sydney Nanoscience Hub in week 13.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.