Definition - What does Microstructure mean?

Microstructure refers to the surface structure of materials such as thin foil that can be revealed under magnification higher than 25×. A material’s microstructure can be classified into the following:

  • Composite
  • Metallic
  • Ceramic
  • Polymeric

This can immensely affect properties that determine the application of materials, like:

  • Corrosion
  • Wear resistance
  • Hardness
  • Ductility
  • Toughness

Corrosionpedia explains Microstructure

The structure of a material can be described through its microstructure and crystal structure. The latter is used to refer to the average atom positions throughout the cells, while microstructure describes a certain material’s appearance in terms of nanometer- to centimeter-length scale.

Microstructure can be viewed under a wide range of techniques in microscopy. The microstructure features of materials may differ tremendously when seen at dissimilar length scales. Therefore, it is vital to consider the length scale of every observation when illustrating the material’s microstructure.

The idea behind microstructure is highly relatable to the average person through the macrostructural features of common objects. For instance, in galvanized steel, like in a road divider or lamp casing, it appears to be an evenly colored structure, but upon closer examination it can be seen that it is composed of interlocking polygons with varying shades such as silver and gray.

Every polygon is described as a zinc crystal holding onto the steel surface beneath. Lead and zinc are two metals that have crystals large enough to be seen by the naked eye. The crystals are generally unworked and unstressed, growing in various directions and are not prone to deforming stress. Larger crystals, as can be observed in the microstructure, indicate lower strengths, but high ductility.

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