Acoustic emission is the generation of stress waves by sudden movement in stressed materials. This article begins with a comparison of acoustic emission from most other nondestructive testing (NDT) methods, and discusses the range of applicability of acoustic emission. It describes the instrumentation principles of acoustic emission and reviews the role of acoustic emission in materials studies. The article illustrates the testing of metal-matrix composites (MMCs) using acoustic emission and the use of acoustic emission inspection in production quality control. It concludes with information on the structural test applications of acoustic emission inspection to find defects and to assess or ensure structural integrity.