Classification of Engineering Materials

Last Updated on May 24, 2023 by Electricalvolt

An Engineering material is a material that is used to manufacture or build something of functional importance. The term “Engineering” comes from the Latin word “Ingenium”, which means “Knowledge”. Hence, Engineering materials are the materials that are used to make something by application of knowledge to perform a specific function. Therefore, all materials that we look around are nothing but Engineering materials.

engineering materials- metals

Every material has its own distinguished properties like strength, hardness, elasticity, melting point, boiling point, etc. Knowledge of these properties is applied to select a proper material for any Engineering work. If a single material is not able to provide the required outcome then a mixture of two or more than two such materials is taken into account to get the desired results.

An example of engineering material is steel which is used in many applications like in the construction of a building, railway tracks, and even high-voltage transmission lines. Copper is one of the most important engineering materials that is used in the manufacturing of electrical machines and household appliances. The selection of a particular material for a particular purpose depends on its various properties, availability, and cost.

Classification of engineering materials can chiefly be done based on the physical properties of the material, its chemical composition, and heat and electricity conducting capacity.

Physical properties give us an idea about the outer nature of the material like the weight it can sustain, elasticity and tensile strength of the material, whether the material is ductile and malleable or not, etc.

The chemical composition tells us about what the material has at the molecule or the atomic level. This helps us to decide what material can be mixed with the given material to get the preferred output. A material having iron content is prone to rust and in order to avoid the material from rusting we need to know the amount of iron that the material has so that we can take corrective action.

Heat or electricity conducting capacity tells us about the level of heat that a material can withstand without melting. This is important in the case of electrical appliances or machines which are expected to work round the clock without thermal runaway.

Classification of Engineering Materials

Engineering materials can be classified as

  • Metals
  • Non-metals
  • Metalloids


Metals are a category of engineering materials that are known for their specific properties. Metals are solid in nature at room temperature (except Mercury which is considered a liquid metal), have a regular shape, have high electrical and heat conductivity, are ductile and malleable in nature, etc. Metals have a reflective surface.

Examples of metals: Aluminium, Copper, Iron, Gold, Silver, Nickel, etc.

Metals can further be subdivided into two

  • Ferrous metals
  • Non-Ferrous metals

This sub-classification of engineering materials is done based on iron content as iron is one of the most important and commonly used metals in any engineering work. Apart from that, iron has magnetic properties which are unparallel to any other metal which makes iron one of a kind.

Ferrous metals

Ferrous metals are metals having iron content and they show properties similar to that of iron. These metals have a strong affinity to magnets (high permeability) and hence these metals are used to make the core material of an electrical machine. The core material is used for carrying the magnetic field flux and thus a Ferrous metal is preferred which is ferromagnetic in nature.

Examples of ferrous engineering materials: Wrought Iron, Cast Iron, Silicon Steel, CRGO steel, High-speed steel, etc.

Non-Ferrous metals

These metals are paramagnetic or diamagnetic in nature and have low permeability, unlike their Ferrous counterpart. These metals have insignificant or no iron content.

Examples: Copper, Gold, Silver, etc.


Non-metals are materials that are opposite in nature to metals. These materials are poor conductors of heat and electricity in general, are brittle in nature, neither ductile nor malleable, and can be present in solid, liquid, or gaseous states.

Examples of non-metal engineering materials: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Selenium, Sulphur, plastics, rubbers, asbestos, etc.

Everything that doesn’t exhibit the characteristics of a metal can be placed under non-metals. Hence there is a long list of things that can be placed under non-metals. Some broader sub-classifications of non-metals are as follows.

  • Non-metallic solids: These materials are solid in nature at room temperature although these are non-metals. Elements like Carbon, Selenium, Sulphur, etc. fall under this category. These components are used in various engineering works involving chemical reactions or any biological processes.
  • Non-metallic gases: Gases like Fluorine(F), Oxygen(O), Nitrogen(N), Hydrogen(H), etc. are important non-metallic gases that are used in various industrial applications. For example, SF6 circuit breakers are used in power stations to avoid arcing during a fault clearance owing to the property of the SF6 gas.
  • Noble gases: Noble gases include Helium(He), Neon(Ne), Xenon(Xe), Krypton(Kr), Argon(Ar), and Radon(Rn). These gases are non-reactive in nature because of their stable atomic configuration as they have complete electron shells. These gases are also called inert gases and they have wide use in industrial applications. For example, halogen bulbs and Lasers, metal refining, welding etc.
  • Polymers: Polymers are important non-metallic engineering materials used in a wide range of industrial applications. These elements are large molecules of a repeated chain of Carbon and Hydrogen along with other non-metals like Oxygen and Nitrogen. Polymers are co-valent in nature, unlike metals which are electrovalent. Thus, polymers have no free electrons available for the conduction of electricity. Polymers provide great resistance to the flow of electric current and allow the flow of current only beyond a certain high voltage known as the breakdown voltage. Hence, polymer like Poly-Vinyl Chloride is used as an insulating material for electrical machines. Polymers are bad conductors of heat as well which makes them perfect heat-insulator as well. Some examples of polymers are Poly-tetra Fluro Ethylene (PTFE also known as Teflon), Bakelite (used in making electrical switches), polypropylene, Polystyrene, etc.
  • Rubbers: Rubbers are a category of polymers that have greater elasticity. Hence these are also called elastomers. Rubbers are used in making tires, gaskets, conveyor belts, and other such materials where elasticity is of utmost importance.
  • Ceramic materials: Ceramic materials are inorganic, non-metallic solid materials that are used in a variety of industrial applications. These materials are made of metallic and non-metallic compounds. Ceramics are generally formed by blending clay, earthen matter, oxides, carbides, and Silicates. Clay is a common matter in all ceramic materials. Ceramic materials are known for their hardness and resistance to corrosion. Some commonly produced ceramic materials are glass, porcelain, spark plugs, cutting tools, wear-resistant coatings, etc.
  • Other materials: There are other engineering materials like wood, graphite, leather, textile materials, Petroleum, etc. which are non-metallic in nature. Graphite is the only non-metal which is a good conductor of electricity because Graphite has delocalized electrons which means it has free electrons in the Carbon atoms.


Metalloids are materials that exhibit the characteristics of both metals as well as non-metals. In some places, metalloids are considered within the ambit of non-metals as they don’t show metallic characteristics completely. Metalloids are semiconductors which means these materials have electrical conductivity between the metals and the non-metals. Semiconductor materials are used in making transistors, diodes, triodes, and electronic chips.

classifications of engineering materials

Semiconductor materials are used to make high-frequency switching devices that can start or stop the conduction of electric signals within a small fraction of time which is not possible mechanically. Typical examples of Metalloids include Silicon, Germanium, Arsenic, Antimony, Boron, etc. Silicon and Germanium are highly used in making semiconductor switching devices.

This is all about the classification of Engineering materials.

Please follow and like us:
About Satyadeo Vyas

Satyadeo Vyas, M.Tech,M.B.A. is an electrical engineer and has more than 36 years of industrial experience in the operation, maintenance, and commissioning of electrical and instrumentation projects. He has good knowledge of electrical, electronics, and instrumentation engineering.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Want To Learn Faster?

Get electrical, electronic, automation, and instrumentation engineering articles delivered to your inbox every week.

Leave a Comment