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Materials Engineering Group

30 December 2023

UC's Materials Engineering group has a diverse range of interests that cover many topics in the field of materials. This includes ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, fracture and failure mechanisms, ceramics, polymers, and composites. Learn more about our Materials Engineering group.


About the Materials Engineering Group

The group has a diverse range of interests covering many topics within the field of materials, including ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, fracture and failure mechanisms, ceramics, polymers and composites.

Experimental, theoretical and computational methods are used to study processing-properties-structure-performance interrelationships in each of the classes of materials.

It has a history of providing a service both in research, failure analysis and routine testing to the materials industry in New Zealand and is continuing to develop this role.

  • Milo V Kral

    Solid state phase transformations, rapid solidification processing, microstructural characterisation using analytical electron microscopy and diffraction methods.

  • Catherine M Bishop

    Microstructural evolution, phase transformations and processing in materials: oxides, ferroelectrics, alloys and films.

  • Mark P Staiger

    Development of biodegradable magnesium alloys, thermomechanical processing (rolling and extrusion of Mg), in vitro and in vivo corrosion behaviour of Mg alloys, pultrusion of GFRPs, bio-based composite materials, bio-based aerogels, plastics recycling and 3D printing, auxetic materials.

    Technical Expertise

  • Shaun Mucalo Technical Officer. Materials characterisation including optical and electron microscopy.

  • Oscar Torres Projects Engineer – Materials Testing and Chemistry. 

  • Environmental degradation of structural alloys
  • Creep performance of metal alloys
  • Thermomechanical processing of magnesium alloys
  • Biodegradable magnesium alloys for orthopaedic applications
  • Phase transformations in ferroelectrics
  • Grain boundaries and interfaces in alloys and ceramics
  • Characterisation of intermetallic phases in structural materials
  • Recycling of plastics
  • Bio-based polymers and composites
  • Aerogel-like materials
  • Auxetic materials in biomedical applications
  • Pultrusion of glass fibre-reinforced composite materials
  • Structure and properties of bronze and brass alloys
  • Structure and properties of 3D printed alloys

Failure analysis and metallurgical engineering laboratories

The Materials Engineering Group has a diverse range of interests covering many topics within the field of materials, including ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, fracture and failure mechanisms, ceramics, polymers and composites. We have a history of providing research, failure analysis and testing to New Zealand Industry.

We realize that Industry needs quick results - and we are prepared to complete analyses in as little as 24 hours

The group

The laboratory

  • Leica and Olympus light microscopes with digital imaging
  • JEOL Scanning Electron Microscope
  • Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy
  • Hitachi Transmission Electron Microscope
  • TA Instruments Q800 Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) instrument
  • PerkinElmer DSC8000 Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) instrument
  • NETZSCH TMA 402 F1 Thermal Mechanical Analysis (TMA) instrument
  • MTS Criterion, MTS 858 and MTS 810 tensile/compression testing machines with load capacities from 100 N to 100 kN, including environmental chambers for temperature-controlled and fluid-immersion testing
  • Satec heavy-duty tensile/compression testing machine with 1000 kN load cell
  • Charpy impact tester for metals and advanced composites, and Zwick / Roell HIT 50P machine for Charpy testing of polymer and composite materials
  • Assorted hardness testing machines: Brinell, Rockwell, and Vickers; LECO microhardness tester; and various durometers
  • Heat treatment facilities: 10 kW vacuum/argon atmosphere induction furnace, various radiant furnaces from 200-2000°C, and oil and salt quench baths
  • Creep rigs
  • Cold and hot rolling mill
  • Twin screw extruder
  • Extrusion press and rig for magnesium alloys
  • Hot press for polymer and composites manufacturing (gibitre instruments)
  • Composite laminate manufacturing laboratory
  • Babyplast injection moulding machine
  • UniSense Microsensor Profiling System for microscale gas (H2/O2) and pH measurements
  • Blood penetration testing equipment for PPE


Contact Information

Phone: +64 (3) 3 364 2596

Failure analysis consultation

The Materials Group's team of engineers and technicians combines design, industrial process and material testing experience to accurately determine the root cause of product and process problems. Whatever the material, chances are we've tested it and understand its properties.

Aerospace Materials - Automotive Materials - Aluminum - Brasses - Carbon Steels - Castings - Coatings - Composites - Corrosion Resistant Steels - CVD and PVD Coatings - Elastomers - Electronic Components - Plating - Polymers - Powder Metals - Tool Steels.

The list below shows that the Materials Group can go well beyond physical testing. We test the total environment and condition of metal parts and sub-assemblies and have the equipment and the expertise to move to the microstructure level to complete the analysis process.

  • Chemical composition
  • Coating thickness and composition
  • Materials durability and degradation
  • Contamination
  • Corrosion testing and analysis
  • Fractography
  • Mechanical testing
  • Microstructural characterisation of metals, polymers and composites
  • Non-destructive inspection
  • Photo documentation
  • Quality control
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Weld evaluation
  • Thermal and chemical analysis of plastics and composites
  • Thermal expansion coefficient of materials
  • Density measurements


Examples of Recent Cases

  • Investigation of weld microstructures in aluminum lithium alloys.
  • Failure of engine exhaust manifolds for motor homes.
  • Materials selection for river lock gate applications.
  • Analysis of cracked welded assembly.
  • Analysis of fractured hydraulic shaft.
  • Investigation of fire damage.
  • Dimensional analysis of printed circuit boards.
  • Failure analysis of a fractured spring.
  • Feasibility study for rotor molded polyethylene.
  • Microstructural analysis of heat resistant materials.
  • Analysis of a joining tool.
  • Analysis of printed circuit board copper plating thickness.
  • Analysis of enamel, solder, electroplated and hot dip galvanised coatings.
  • Defects in aluminum castings.
  • Environmental stress cracking in polycarbonate.
  • Curing kinetics of thermosetting resins.

Research Opportunities

Postgraduate Research Projects Available.

If you are interested in the research direction of the Materials Group and you have or are about to complete a good Honours or Masters degree in Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics or related discipline, please contact:

Find research groups

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