EDX Introduction to Steel 101

I completed an EDX course Introduction to steel earlier this week, taught by Mark Miodownik. The course is self-paced, and the total time needed to work through the material is around 2-3 hours.

I completed the course in 1 session, you could split up the course into smaller portions, if you can spend 20 minutes at a time.

I think this short course is an OK introduction to steel, and to the EDX technology. The course can be viewed as an enhanced lecture, since at the end of each short segment there is a little interactivity, in the form of some multiple choice questions or interactive graphics.

The material is really simplified, the major take homes are; the importance of steel, that it’s a versatile material, why it is the ultimate engineering material, what sort of things control the properties.

The course is quite short for such a large subject matter, so of course it’s rather simplified. I think in a few areas it is too simplified and might be misleading. An example of my concern would be the explanation of how quenching effects the microstructure, nothing about martensite phase is mentioned, only that quenching “freezes in the structure”. The approach is rather like the simplifications that take place in teaching physics were you find out at each level that everything you were taught to date, so I hope people watching the video would be motivated to study further about steels or metals.

Anyway these people seem happy:

So well done to Mark Miodownik and Tenaris for this innovation.

MIcroscopes in our time

Sir Colin Humphreys was among the guests on this mornings “In our time” hosted by Melvyn Bragg (Baron Bragg), discussing microscopy.


How it works: Metal

I watched the BBC’s “How it works: Metal”, it’s a nice program with brilliant visuals, but I feel they really missed a chance to explain some of the science. I think a lot of the detail skipped in the program was needless, and that just explaining simply would have been better. For example, a lot of the program hovered on the verge of explaining dislocations, even showing a video of them in the TEM, but this is completely impossible to put into any frame of reference without explaining what they are, and probably leads to many more misconceptions.

It would have been simpler to explain that crystals are periodic arrangements of atoms, than say that metals are like quartz except that it doesn’t explode when it is hit. Animations of crystal lattices shown where very pretty but I think it was difficult to understand what the dislocation was (since it looked like a cluster of atoms).

The program covered a lot of ground, touching on alloying, precipitation hardening, single crystal superalloys. It seems like the aim was to inspire people or impress them about metals rather than to actually let them learn anything about what they are really like.