Structure-property relations are a key component of materials science. Characterization techniques are used to probe a materials structure, either optically, electronically, magnetically, or through mechanical means. The elemental makeup of materials can be determined through a large number of techniques, including x-ray fluorescence, mass spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction. Scientists at Penn State bombard materials with buckyballs (carbon 60) to determine composition and chemical makeup, look into the atomic structure of materials with large magnets, and investigate the dielectric properties of materials with ellipsometry and interferometry.
The Materials Characterization Lab brings together many of the most advanced tools in consolidated user laboratories where experts maintain the instruments, develop new techniques, and assist faculty, students, and industrial users in performing experiments. Labs and faculty engaged in materials characterization include a large proportion of the materials community.