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2021 start

Materials Science and Engineering

Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Prepare for a career in industry or research by learning the concepts and theories that make materials science and engineering possible.
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Course description

It is estimated that 70 per cent of innovations are due to an advance in materials. This course provides a solid grounding across a wide variety of materials, and aims to prepare you for a career in industry or research by teaching you the concepts and theories that make materials science and engineering possible. 

Our research-led teaching introduces you to all the latest developments. You’ll have the option to keep your course general or tailor your degree with optional modules to specialise in the area that interests you the most.

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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 workplace.

15 credits
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.
Processing topics include powder processing, thermomechanical processing and polymer and composites processing. Characterisation topics include X-ray, neutron and electron diffraction, light and electron optics, analytical scanning and transmission electron microscopy, thermal analysis, spectroscopic methods (e.g. Infra-red, Raman, NMR, XANES) and advanced chemical analysis. Lectures will be supplemented with exercises and an assessment on the processing part of the module.

15 credits
Practical, Modelling and Digital Skills

This module develops your skills in three linked areas:

(a) materials characterisation laboratory skills including safe methods of working, completion of COSHH and risk assessments, and measurements using a range of practical techniques
(b) the use of computers for data handling and analysis together with an introduction to modelling (using packages such as Excel and MATLAB) and analysis together with an introduction to finite element modelling (using packages such as ANSYS)
(c) 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.

15 credits
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 case study part of the module has a twofold aim. Firstly, it is designed to simulate the kind of team work that could be required of you in industry. They aim to increase your knowledge of processing and applications of engineering materials, and your ability to work in a group to cooperate and collaborate efficiently and effectively. Secondly, they are designed to highlight some of the critical issues for processing of materials from both a materials and engineering systems point of view.

15 credits

The research project and dissertation is supervised by one or, in some instances, two members of academic staff. Project supervisors are allocated based both on student choice and academic workload.The topic of the research project will be set in consultation with your project supervisor. Laboratory or modelling work on the project will formally be undertaken during the Second Semester (including the Spring vacation period) and during the summer vacation between about mid-June and mid-August.

60 credits

Optional modules:

Nuclear Reactor Engineering

The module provides a broad base introduction to the theory and practice 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 module aims to provide you 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 module will cover the techniques used to prepare nuclear fuels and process spent fuel. You will develop an understanding of the present and future roles of nuclear reactors in energy provision.

15 credits
Functional and Structural Ceramics

The aims of this module are:

(a) To review bonding theories and models to explain the wide variety of electrical transport properties displayed by solids and in particular transition metal oxides
(b) To review the topic of superconductivity, focusing primarily on cuprate-based materials, their applications and limitations
(c) To establish the underpinning material science in key current technologies in the area of electroceramics such as capacitors and thermistors
(d) To illustrate how thin electroceramics films are made and the key functional properties currently being exploited in a range of Si based devices
(e) To establish the materials science which underpins refractory technology
(f) To illustrate the science behind many of the main refractory materials in use today
(g) To study the oxidation resistance of refractories in harsh environments
(h) To describe the main processes in which refractories play a key role.

15 credits
Engineering Alloys

This module 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 module centres on the physical metallurgy of such engineering alloys to demonstrate the effect of alloying and implications for the processing, microstructure and performance of structural components in a range of industrial sectors, but predominantly the automotive and aerospace sectors.

15 credits
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 glass chemistry in optimising modern cements is highlighted.

15 credits
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. 

15 credits
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:
(a.) 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.
(b.) Advanced nuclear systems: materials for Generation IV systems, future fuels, fusion systems, advanced fuel cycle concepts.
(c.) Nuclear materials performance: swelling, voiding; stress corrosion cracking, creep, and hydride formation.
(d.) Radiation damage: fundamental physics of radiation damage processes, models for damage accumulation, impact on mechanical properties.
(e.) The impact on materials design from nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.

*(UO2 is chemical formula for uranium dioxide. PuO2 is the chemical formula for plutonium dioxide. Both are oxide materials that can be used to make nuclear fuel.)

The module will be taught primarily through lectures, with contribution from external experts. 

15 credits
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. 

15 credits
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. This module 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 module.

15 credits
Materials for Energy Applications

This module aims to develop your understanding of materials (ferrous & non-ferrous alloys, ceramics, composites) used for energy generation.

15 credits
Design and Manufacture of Composites

This module is designed to provide you with an understanding of both the design and manufacture of polymer composites and is presented in two sections. First, design of composites is taught via tutorials and practicals on classical laminate theory and ESAComp software. An extended series of worked examples provides you with the basic tools you need to design effective composite parts. Second, manufacture of composites is taught via lectures. You will learn multiple routes for making composite parts alongside practical issues such as defects, machining/joints, failure, testing and non destructive testing, repair and SMART composites. 

15 credits
Advanced Materials Manufacturing: Part I

This module 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. 

15 credits
Nanostructures and Nano-structuring

This module introduces nanostructures (free-standing nanoobjects or assemblies of these, or nanopores in porous materials), and methods of nanopatterning and nanocharacterisation (nanometrology). There is particular emphasis on carbon and non-carbon-based nanotubes, composite nanotubes, nanowires and belts, and nanosticks and tips. Also considered are 3-D framework nanostructures, including nanoporous materials, opal and inverse opal structures, and composite nanomaterials generated from these porous materials. The nanopatterning methods introduced concentrate on focused ion beam, focused electron beam technology and mechanical imprint methods.

15 credits

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. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.


Working alongside students and staff from across the globe, you’ll tackle real-world projects, and attend lectures, seminars and laboratory classes.


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


1 year-full-time

Entry requirements

A good honours degree in materials, a physical science (chemistry or physics) or a related engineering subject.

Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

Pre-Masters programmes

If you're an international student and don’t meet our entry requirements, we offer a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme through the University of Sheffield International College. The programme develops your knowledge of your chosen subject, introduces you to vital study skills and provides additional support to reach the English language level for the course, should you need it.

Once you complete your Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering and achieve the required grades, you can enter your chosen postgraduate degree at the University of Sheffield.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now

+44 114 222 5941

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Our student protection plan

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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