Photo of different materials; glass, silkworm, metal, bio scaffolds, cement

What is Materials Science and Engineering?

To make any engineered device, structure or product you need the right material. 
Materials Science and Engineering is the study of all materials, from those we see and use everyday such as a glass or a piece of sport equipment to those used in aerospace and medicine.

It has a huge impact on societal challenges including:

  • the environment and climate change
  • advanced manufacturing
  • renewable and sustainable energy
  • materials efficiency
  • healthcare
  • biotechnology
  • aerospace and transport
  • communications and information technology

Materials Scientists or Engineers, through understanding how materials work, can create new materials for new applications as well as develop existing materials to improve performance. They can control the structure of a material, from an atomic level up, so that its properties, for example strength, can be tailored to suit a particular application.

Materials in action

Aircraft bearings Aeroplane

Within the Department, research into coatings has allowed the replacement of steel/bronze bearings in A350/A380 aircraft with titanium.

The weight of each new bearing is halved. There are 2700 bearings per aircraft, saving 400kg. Plus £7.6 million in fuel will be saved over the aircraft's lifetime and 36,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Spider Silk Spider web

Spiders make many varieties of silk with different properties, with some behaving in ways we cannot engineer other materials to do.

In the Department researchers are working to understand the properties of natural silks better and how we can try and make materials like it.

Dealing with nuclear waste Nuclear waste disposal

Nuclear waste can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.

Within the Department researchers are looking at solutions such as deep burial determining how the material container and bedrock will stand up to the waste.

Learning about materials

As our students learn more about materials science and engineering, their enthusiasm for the subject grows.

Throughout their course, they produce pieces of work to demonstrate their understanding, and these can be presented in a number of ways. Here we share some examples of their work.

Harsha Anand produced a number of podcasts, under the title Miscellaneous Materials, where he talks about different aspects of materials science, from a general description of materials to applications like Lab on a Chip.

Listen to Harsha's podcasts.

Stephan Kyle created a series of blogs about the history of steel making - The Steel Story - from the formation of the elements that make up the earth and go into forming all the materials we know, through to modern-day steel making. 

Take a look at Stephan's blog.

What you can study

Our courses have been designed to transform you from being a student into a professional scientist or engineer. You will study materials from the atomic scale through to large manufactured parts, which involves you understanding the scientific properties of materials, the engineering performance of materials and materials processing. By understanding how these three aspects interact, trains you to improve existing materials and discover or create new materials. 

If you have a particular interest in a specific area of Materials you could choose a more focused degree such as Metallurgy or Materials Science with Nuclear Engineering.

Aerospace Materials provides you with a blend of technical knowledge and skills to enable you to contribute to the international aerospace industry of the future.

To learn more about materials in the context of human biology you should opt for the Materials Science and Engineering (Biomaterials) course.