Why study MSc Materials Science and Engineering?

Student working on the TMC machineThe Department has a long established international reputation for its research and teaching in materials science and engineering, housing high facilities for materials processing, characterisation and testing.

It has been estimated that 70% of innovations are due to an advance in materials. We aim to prepare you for a career in industry, or academia, by teaching you the concepts, theories and practical skills that make materials science and engineering possible.

Course breakdown

  • Duration: 1 year full time
  • Fees: It's important to find out how much the fees are for your course and get advice on funding your studies. We recommend using the University's fee lookup tool
  • Entry requirements: a good honours degree in materials, a physical science (chemistry or physics) or a related engineering subject. For equivalent qualifications in your country, click here.
  • English language requirements: overall IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent
  • Study locations: Sheffield campus.
  • Our campus and how we use it: We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.

Once you've made your decision and are ready to apply, follow our step by step guide. Apply now

Course structure

You'll receive in-depth technical knowledge and advanced expertise in your chosen materials field, develop excellent analytical and research skills as well as enhanced project planning and management capabilities and experience. 

Core Modules

Science of Materials

This module introduces key concepts involved in materials science to cover general aspects and applications of metallic, polymeric and inorganic materials. Topics covered include; chemical bonding; basic crystallography of crystalline materials; crystal defects; mechanical properties and strength of materials; phase diagrams and transformations; overviews of metals and alloys; polymers and inorganic solids. Lectures will be supplemented with laboratory exercises based on; construction of a binary phase diagram; crystallography; health and safety regulations in the work place.

This unit aims to give students:

  • Knowledge and understanding of bonding, structure, defects, phase transformations and applications of metals, polymers and inorganic solids;
  • Significant insight into the mechanical properties and strength of materials;
  • A sound grounding in the construction and application of equilibrium phase diagrams to materials science;
  • Knowledge and understanding regarding health and safety regulations in the work place.

Materials Processing and Characterisation

This module introduces the processes and technologies involved in the production of metals, polymers, ceramics and composites and the experimental methods used to characterise these materials. Topics covered are broken into two areas:

  • Fabrication and processing of materials, e.g. powder, thermomechanical and polymer/composites.
  • Analysis of materials using a range of techniques, e.g. diffraction, spectroscopy, and thermal analysis

This unit aims to give students:

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the material fabrication technologies
  • Knowledge and comprehension of an extended range of analytical techniques and how they can used in the development of new materials

Practical, Modelling and Digital Skills

This module develops students’ skills in 3 linked areas:

  • materials characterisation laboratory skills including safe methods of working, completion of COSHH and risk assessments, and measurements using a range of practical techniques
  • the use of computers for data handling and analysis together with an introduction to modelling
  • the skills needed to search for scientific literature as well as technical skills for presenting data, including how to avoid plagiarism, referencing, formatting documents, drawing high quality graphs, critically reviewing literature and giving presentations.

This unit aims to prepare students to undertake practical and modelling based research in Materials Science and Engineering. To achieve this overall aim students will undertake:

  • a set of guided practical experiments exposing them to a) necessary health and safety protocols and b) a range of materials characterisation techniques
  • computer based data handling and modelling
  • literature based research and review
  • presentations

Course Objectives

By the end of the unit, a candidate will be able to:

  • Complete essential health and safety forms (COSHH, RACIE)
  • Safely undertake practical work in materials science and engineering
  • Analyse data obtained from practical and modelling experiments
  • Confidently use selected scientific computational software
  • Search and critically analyse scientific literature
  • Coherently present the results of their work verbally and written form

Heat and Materials with Application

This module examines both the transfer of heat to/from materials and thermally activated processes that occur during the manufacture of materials due to the transfer of heat into materials. There is also some consideration of the effects of heat during use. Thus conduction, convection and radiative heat transfer, on their own and in combination are considered, followed by an examination of diffusion (Fick’s laws) and sintering (solid state, liquid phase and viscous glass sintering). Finally creep phenomena are considered.
The aims of the taught component of this unit are:

  • Significant insight into the importance of thermal phenomena in the manufacture of materials;
  • A sound grounding in and the ability to carry out relevant calculations in heat transfer related phenomena in the context of materials processing ;
  • A sound understanding of the processes of sintering in some areas of materials manufacture;
  • A sound understanding of the processes of creep that occur when materials are used at a significant fraction of their melting temperature.

The aims of the case study of this unit are to:

  • Develop and consolidate the students' knowledge and understanding of high temperature materials and particularly of creep;
  • Investigate, in small groups, a topic relating to the processing or use of high temperature materials (e.g. in a gas turbine engine); further experience of working in a team to gather information on the allocated topic and prepare a written report.

By the end of the unit, a candidate will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role of heat transfer in materials manufacturing and be able to undertake heat transfer calculations for a variety of simplified processing problems;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role of diffusion based phenomena in materials manufacture and use and be able to undertake relevant calculations;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of sintering processes in materials manufacture;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of creep phenomena in materials in use;
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the materials used in the application being studied and why they are selected;
  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of one aspect of high temperature materials in the application being studied e.g. single crystal turbine blades for gas turbine engines;
  • Demonstrate experience of group work under time pressure

Optional Modules

Students must select one module from each of the following lists.

List A

Nuclear Reactor Engineering Studies

The module provides a broad base introduction to the theory and practise of nuclear reactors for power production. This includes those aspects of physics which represent the source of nuclear energy and the factors governing its release as well as the key issues involved in the critical operation of nuclear cores. The relation of the science underlying successful operation with the needs for fuel preparation and engineering designs is emphasised. The unit aims to provide students with a clear grasp of those aspects relevant to the design and operation of nuclear reactors along with an understanding of the principles of reactor design. The unit will cover the techniques used to prepare nuclear fuels and process spent fuel. Students will develop an understanding of the present and future roles of nuclear reactors in energy provision.

This unit aims to:

  • Provide knowledge and understanding of advanced concepts of nuclear materials engineering, advanced fuel cycles and reactors, nuclear materials performance, and radiation damage
  • Establish an understanding of materials design and performance parameters for advanced nuclear applications

Functional and Structural Ceramics

This unit covers six topics in inorganic and functional materials. Topics are thin/thick film and bulk electroceramic, materials devices and applications, non-oxide ceramics, ceramics for the nuclear fuel industry and structural ceramics. Coverage will focus on materials processing, industrial application requirements and state of the art assessment of materials development strategies.

This unit aims to overview materials utilisation in a range of important current technologies including optimisation of performance by attention to materials processing, compositional control and cost/environmental considerations.

Engineering Alloys

This unit covers engineering metallic alloys ranging from alloy steels, stainless steels, light alloys (i.e. aluminium alloys and titanium alloys) and high temperature metallic systems (intermetallics and nickel superalloys). The course centres on the physical metallurgy of such engineering alloys to demonstrate the effect of alloying and its implications for the processing, microstructure and performance of structural components in a range of industrial sectors, but predominantly the automotive and aerospace sectors.

List B

Glasses and Cements

The materials science and technology of 1) glasses and 2) cement and concrete. The nature of amorphous glass structures for silicates, borates and phosphates is examined in some detail, along with the processes required to produce them. The mechanical properties of glasses and ways to improve them are detailed. Types of cement, their manufacture, and their reaction processes in setting/hardening and in service are discussed, and the importance of understanding cement chemistry in optimising modern cements is highlighted.

This unit aims to give students knowledge and understanding of glasses, cements and concrete by:

  • Exploring the structural and chemical features of noncrystalline oxide materials;
  • Describing the processing of all classes of oxide glasses including flat glass, container glass, fibre glass and fibre optics ;
  • Exploring the features of glass structures that control the mechanical properties of glasses and how the strength of glass components may be improved;
  • Understanding how various cements (Portland and non-Portland) are manufactured, and how this contributes to the environment (built and natural);
  • Discussing how cements react during hydration and setting, and how this influences their properties in the fresh and hardened states;
  • Exploring some of the methods available for modifying and optimising cement and concrete properties depending on the desired application.

Metallurgical Processing

This module examines three areas of materials engineering where significant improvement in performance in-service can be obtained via their use. First, the module provides an introduction to the processes and technologies involved in the production of steel, aluminium, and titanium Secondly, methodologies of how microstructure can be significantly improved via thermomechanical processing are investigated and aims to build insight into the operation and capabilities of thermomechanical processing techniques. Finally, this module will describe in detail the underlying engineering principles of plastic forming and focus on some of the main metallic production techniques such as extrusion, rolling and wire drawing.

The aims of this unit are to:

  • Develop an understanding of the interaction of metallurgical and mechanical variables in determining microstructural evolution in high temperature solid metal shaping processes;
  • Understand in detail the production routes used for the making of steel;
  • Understand the production route for other metals such as aluminium and titanium;
  • Introduce students to practical analysis of engineering applications using finite elements and to develop an awareness of the power and limitations of the method;
  • Understand by use of case studies the mechanics of all the main metal forming operations, such as extrusion and rolling and the relationship between these operations and final mechanical properties

Advanced Nuclear Systems

The aims of this module are to develop an understanding of the role of materials science and engineering in nuclear systems. The module will explore advanced nuclear concepts, including:

  • Materials for nuclear energy systems: metallic systems for the reactor core, nuclear graphite, phase diagram of UO2 / PuO2 system, microstructure and chemistry of irradiated UO2 fuel
  • Advanced nuclear systems: materials for Generation IV systems, future fuels, fusion systems, advanced fuel cycle concepts
  • Nuclear materials performance: swelling, voiding; stress corrosion cracking, creep, and hydride formation
  • Radiation damage: fundamental physics of radiation damage processes, models for damage accumulation, impact on mechanical properties

This unit aims to:

  • Provide knowledge and understanding of advanced concepts of nuclear materials engineering, advanced fuel cycles and reactors, nuclear materials performance, and radiation damage
  • Establish an understanding of materials design and performance parameters for advanced nuclear applications

By the end of the unit, a candidate will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the considerations of materials selection and performance in nuclear systems, with reference to likely failure modes
  • Critically evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of advanced reactor concepts and fuel cycles, and the materials challenges for implementation
  • Demonstrate application of the theory and mechanisms of radiation damage in materials, to predict lifetime performance of materials

List C

Deformation, Fracture and Fatigue

Deformation, fracture and fatigue are important mechanical phenomena in both metals processing and use. The role of dislocations in and the effects of microstructural features on the plastic deformation of metals is initially explored. Consideration of fracture starts with linear elastic fracture mechanics including the Griffith equation and Irwin stress intensity factors. The effects of plasticity effects on fracture in metals including plastic zones at crack tips and cyclical fatigue are considered in some detail. Both total lifetime approaches and damage tolerance approaches to fatigue are considered.

This unit aims to give students:

  • develop students’ understanding of the theoretical principles used to describe the deformation, fracture and fatigue of metals
  • enable students to undertake fracture mechanics based calculations utilising a stress intensity factor approach
  • enable students to undertake fatigue lifetime calculations based on both total lifetime approaches and damage tolerant approaches

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • explain the role of dislocations and their interactions with microstructural features in the deformation of metals
  • explain the role of cracks and crack like defects in fracture
  • undertake stress intensity factor calculations involving a range of crack geometries
  • estimate fatigue lifetimes

Solid State Chemistry

Inorganic solids have a very wide range of applications as functional materials because of their ability to exhibit a complete spectrum of electrical, magnetic, optical and multifunctional properties. By understanding their structure-composition-property relations, it is possible design properties for specific applications. Therefore the course covers the use and interpretation of phase diagrams in describing these inorganic materials and then considers how inorganic solids can have variable composition by isovalent/aliovalent ion substitutions. Applications including solid electrolytes; mixed conductors, and ferroelectrics are considered throughout the course.

This unit aims to develop your understanding of

  • The application of solid state chemistry in the development functional inorganic materials for a variety of specific applications.
  • Structure-composition-property relations for a range of inorganic materials and how this information can be used to design materials for specific applications
  • The many correlations between stoichiometry, structure and properties of inorganic solids, including: solid electrolytes, especially β-alumina and yttria-stabilised zirconia, their structures, electrical properties and applications; mixed conductors, especially LiCoO2, HxWO3 and LaMnO3-x and their use as intercalation electrodes in lithium batteries, electrochromic smart windows and fuel cell cathodes;
  • The perovskite structure, stoichiometric, non-stoichiometric, distorted and undistorted, ferroelectricity in BaTiO3 and the effect of dopants, leading to capacitor applications.
  • The Synthetic methods used in solid state chemistry, both high temperature solid state reactions and low temperature methods such as sol-gel.

Materials for Energy Applications

This module aims to develop students’ understanding of materials (ferrous and non ferrous alloys, ceramics, films) used for energy generation, storage and utilisation.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of materials for energy generation;
  • Understand the advantages and limitations of different materials for different applications;
  • Understand issues related to sustainability and Life Cycle Analysis;
  • Write a popular-science article.

List D

Design and Manufacture of Composites

This module is designed to provide students with an understanding of both the design and manufacture of composite materials and is presented in two sections. In the design of composites section, classical laminate theory is introduced followed by both hand and computer based calculations to design effective composite materials. In the manufacturing of composites section, the materials and manufacturing techniques are described, along with important practical issues such as repair, defects, testing and SMART materials.

Advanced Materials Manufacturing: Part I

This unit covers a range of advanced materials manufacturing techniques that are either widely used or emerging in industry. Techniques include Additive Layer Manufacturing, Electron Beam Welding, Superplastic Forming, lithium battery manufacturing and advanced machining approaches. In addition, non-destructive evaluation techniques to ensure high levels of manufacturing integrity will be described.

Nanostructures and Nanostructuring

This course introduces nanostructures (free-standing nanoobjects or assemblies of these, or nanopores in porous materials), and methods of nanopatterning and nanocharacterisation (nanometrology, nanomechanical testing). There is particular emphasis on non-carbon-based nanotubes, composite nanotubes, nanowires and belts. Also considered are 3-D framework nanostructures, including zeolitic nanoporous and mesoporous materials, and opal and inverse opal structures, and composite nanomaterials generated from these porous materials. The nanopatterning methods introduced concentrate on focused ion beam and, focused electron beam technology. Mechanical imprint methods are also covered. Mechanical Properties on the Nanoscale are introduced along with instrumentation for its measurement.

Research Project

Research project

You will undertake a research project, which may be experimentally, theoretically or industrially based:

  • Industrially-based research, suggested by an industrial organisation, may involve close co-operation with that organisation
  • An experimental or theoretical based research project will be with one of our world leading research groups, involving significant amounts of hands-on work practical work

Recent research projects include:

  • RE free BaTiO3 based multilayer capacitors
  • Fluoride-doped lithium titanates for possible Li battery application
  • Simulations on high entropy alloys
  • Processing and properties of electrical steels
  • Magnetocaloric materials: LaFeSi
  • Graphene quantum dots for bioimaging
  • Determining self sinking rates for nuclear waste packages in deep borehole disposal employing high temperature cementitious sealing matrices
How you'll learn

Students will be taught through a variety of teaching styles including:

  • Scientific Lectures and Skills-based Lectures
  • Problem classes, Tutorial classes, and Computational classes
  • Scientific writing and oral presentations
  • Departmental seminars by invited speakers from outside the University
  • Small Tutor groups
  • Personal project supervision
  • Independent study

Students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities for sample preparation, synthesis and material characterisation and testing, as well as computational tools; examples of our lab-equipment include:

  • Metallurgical and ceramic materials fabrication/sintering, including Additive Manufacturing
  • Materials synthesis for Energy applications
  • Glass melting and processing laboratory
  • Surface Engineering and Coatings
  • Nanoparticle processing and characterisation
  • Spectroscopic techniques
  • Electron and optical microscopes, x-ray diffraction

You’ll be assessed by formal examinations, coursework assignments and a dissertation.

Click here for additional information.

Meet our students

Graduate Emily Trywhitt-Jones

The access to the world class manufacturing and testing facilities was thoroughly enjoyable. This allowed me to have a unique insight into additive layer manufacturing (ALM) which is at the cutting edge of current research and has been an interest to me for a long time.

Emily tyrwhitt-jones/MSC GRADUATE 2014 and ENGINEER AT BAE SYSTEMS

Academic support

Meet Dr Gunter Mobus, Course Director and Reader in Electron Microscopy and Materials Science

Dr Gunter Moebus

Our network of world leading academics, at the cutting edge of their research, inform our courses providing a stimulating, dynamic environment in which to study.

You'll receive support throughout your course, plus a dedicated Supervisor for your research project.

If you have any questions about the course, please contact Course Director Dr Mobus direct email


The Department has large industrial contracts with several industries. The skills you will gain will be of use for a range of employers as well as providing an ideal background for PhD research.

Our graduates work across the globe in a variety of roles including:

  • Materials technologist
  • Manufacturing engineer
  • Field engineer
  • University lecturer
  • Research assistant

Employers include BAE Systems, Ramat Polytechnic, Schlumberger, Sultan Saiful Rijal Technical College and The University of Malaya.

*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers.In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.