Advanced Structural Materials

Structural materials are those used primarily for their mechanical properties. Our research involves the main classes of materials: metals, ceramics, polymers and composites, as well as sustainable construction materials.

Building with different materials

Our advanced structural materials research is divided into five sub-themes:


A unique interdisciplinary approach to research in physical and process metallurgy is used. The major focus is to develop physical understanding, combined with a unique hybrid methodology for prediction of microstructure as a function of process condition.

Key contacts for Metallurgy Research

Surface Engineering and Tribology

Advanced material performance is often dominated by surface properties. Surface Engineering research at Sheffield is focused on the design and development of novel, plasma-assisted coating and treatment methods (and the synthesis/characterisation of coatings/treatments so produced) to improve the mechanical, tribological (ie friction and wear control), thermal and corrosion properties of engineering materials. We also research and develop new tribology/corrosion test methods - and use high-resolution surface analysis/characterisation techniques.

Key contacts for Surface Engineering and Tribology Research

Polymers and Composites

Polymers Research covers two main areas; semicrystalline polymers and polymer fibre composites. For semicrystalline polymers, there is a focus on developing new methods of mesoscale crystallography and the use of theoretical modelling to interpret morphology at a molecular structure level. For composite materials, there is a focus on self-healing composites and the interface and interphase properties of fibre reinforced composites.

Key contacts for Polymers and Composites Research

Mechanical Properties of Glass

Glass Science and Technology has long been an important element in the University's research profile, and the Centre for Glass Research provides a national and international focus for this work.

Current research interests include:

  • Structural characterisation
  • Optical properties including colour and applications such as optical fibres
  • Vitrification
  • Crystallisation
  • Glass ceramics
  • Glass composite materials
  • Nuclear waste glasses
  • Coatings
  • Strength
  • Durability
  • Chemical durability

Key contacts for Mechanical Properties of Glass Research

Sustainable Construction Materials

Our research and development in this area includes the optimisation of new alkali-activated (“geopolymer”) and blended cements for CO2 emissions reduction, durability testing of alternative construction materials, and beamline-based techniques for materials characterisation. Further interests are in the design and fabrication of novel construction materials.

Key contacts for Sustainable Construction Materials Research

Top in the Russell Group

We are the top-ranked Russell Group university for Graduate Prospects in Materials Science and Engineering. (The Times Good University Guide 2020)

Centres of excellence

The University's cross-faculty research centres harness our interdisciplinary expertise to solve the world's most pressing challenges.