Properties of Materials

We see various things around us with different shapes, sizes, colors and composition. Like a rock, plant, metal, paper, wood, plastic and many more. Each thing is made of various materials that define it. We can choose the type of materials as per the requirement for the manufacturing of objects. When a material is combined with other materials, it gives rise to a distinct material with discrete properties. Before we learn about the properties of materials, let us know what is material and its classification in this article.

What is Material?

Material is defined as the substance or mixture of substances that constitute the object. Based on the biological basis materials can be classified as living or nonliving. Materials without any impurities are said to be pure and are said to be impure when any foreign material or impurities are present in it.

Materials are classified on the various bases of structure, uses and properties. Now let us learn the properties of materials in detail.

Classification of Materials on Appearance

Based on the structure and physical properties, materials are classified into:

  • Hard
  • Soft
  • Lustrous
  • Non-lustrous
  • Transparent
  • Opaque
  • Translucent

Materials that cannot be compressed on the application of external force are referred to as hard material. These materials have compact and densely packed particles.

Example: Wood, Chalk, steel

Materials that change their shape on the application of external force are classified as soft material. These materials have comparatively less densely packed particles.

Example: Sponge

Materials that possess a shiny surface are known as lustrous material. Example: Diamond and Gold

Materials that do not have a shiny surface are known as non-lustrous materials.

Example: paper, graphite, wood

Materials which we can see through clearly or the materials which the light can pass through completely are known as transparent materials.

Example: glass

Materials through which the light cannot be passed are known as opaque materials. These materials either transmit or absorb incident light.

Example: wood, wall

Materials that allow the partial transmission of light through it is known as translucent material. When a certain amount of light gets transmitted through, the material is either scattered or reflected internally. Blurred or fuzzy images are seen when viewed through the translucent material.

Example: tissue paper and plastic sheets

Classification on the Structure of Material

Based on the microscopic structure, materials are classified as:

  • Glass
  • Metals
  • Ceramics
  • Polymers
  • Composites

Glass is a highly delicate material made of silicon dioxide. When heated at a high temperature, glass converts into liquid and solidifies upon cooling. They are brittle, and hard in appearance. It is non-crystalline and hence offers 100% optical transparency.

Metals are the good conductors of electricity which are shiny, reflective in nature. They are crystalline since they have a uniform and organized arrangement of atoms. Metals are malleable and can be made into thin sheets.

Example: Gold, silver

Ceramics are highly brittle, hard, heat-resistant, and corrosion-resistant materials. They are made of inorganic molecules and are manufactured through a heating process. They are made of nitride compounds and are crystalline. Ceramics are partially or fully amorphous

Example: brick, earthenware, porcelain

Polymers are composed of long chains of carbons or silicon chains that are interlinked forming a long chain. The carbon atoms can also be attached to other hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen atoms. These polymers do not have an orderly arrangement of atoms. They feature multiple repeated units of carbon atoms. Polymer science is a vast field that deals with the study of polymers.

Example: polystyrene, proteins

Polymers are classified into:

  • Natural polymers
  • synthetic polymers

When two or more mixtures of two or more bonded materials are combined, composites are formed. Composites are a mixture of more than one material. They are weightless materials that offer high strength and stability.

Classification on the Usage of Material

Depending on the usage or purpose, materials are classified as:

  • Construction materials
  • Building insulation materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Refractory materials
  • Aerospace materials
  • Nuclear materials

Classification of Materials on Solubility

Depending on the solubility of materials in water or in other solutions, materials are classified as

  • Soluble materials
  • Insoluble materials

Classification of Materials on Conductivity

Depending on the ability to pass electricity through them, materials are classified as:

  • Conductive materials
  • Non-conductive materials
  • Semiconductors

Classification of Materials on Magnetic Properties

Based on the ability of material to attract and repel materials, it is classified as:

  • Magnetic materials
  • Non-magnetic materials


A biomaterial is a substance specifically produced to interact with biological systems for medical diagnosis or treatment. The study of biomaterials is called biomaterials engineering or biomaterials science. Biomaterials science includes elements of biology, chemistry, tissue engineering, medicine, and materials science.

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