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    Chemistry and Sustainability

    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Science

    Develop the specialised chemistry skills required for a sustainable future by businesses, academia, and society. You'll study and learn fundamental industrial processes, cutting-edge sustainability technologies, and environmental and green chemistry.
    A researcher in the Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory

    Course description

    This course is designed for graduates who want to use and enhance their chemistry skills to contribute to creating a sustainable world.

    You’ll gain expert understanding of how different organisations, and society at large, can manufacture products in a more sustainable way, adopt green technologies, and use and produce energy more efficiently. You'll develop a real understanding of the impact that human activities have on the environment and how to mitigate these effects.

    We offer curriculum of specialist modules that cover environmental and green chemistry, key industrial processes and the latest sustainability technologies to minimise our energy consumption. There are optional modules on major topics in modern chemistry including nanochemistry, photochemistry and advanced materials.

    As part of the course, you'll learn how to communicate and explain sustainability issues to experts and non-specialists alike, to make them aware of the sustainability challenges that our planet is facing and to drive change for a sustainable world.

    Researchers will teach you advanced research skills and you'll spend around one-third of your course working on your own research project, either individually or as a part of a team. You'll choose the topic and be based in one of our world-class research groups, developing skills and expertise that will make you stand out in the graduate job market.

    The course includes contributions from the renowned University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, a leading interdisciplinary research centre.


    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Communication for Sustainability Researchers

    The recent growth of knowledge and debates about sustainable development led to research in sustainability, however and to some extent paradoxically, there is often a lack of consensus on what sustainability really means. For example, in the context of Sustainable Energetic Resources, this could either mean: (i) renewables, (ii) minimization of usage, (iii) source reduction (like the redesign of manufacturing processes). Another example could be in the implementation of recycling policies, when these are actually referring to reuse and repair, which are all distinct concepts.

    Furthermore a full account on what makes a process or development sustainable, should consider multiple factors like: technical and scientific advances in the area, ecological, economic and societal principles, and ethical investments as a whole.

    This module will provide students with the tools that are needed to argue, judge and select a chemical or physical process or even the effect of a policy in terms of life cycle assessment. That is: by investigating specific case studies, students will evaluate all stages and the lifetime of products, their environmental impacts as well as services, manufacturing processes, to create and formulate decision-making aimed to determine if the implementation of a sustainable process or not.

    This unit aims to allow students to work as a part of a team to investigate a relevant and debated topic in sustainability, and to be able to present their findings to a general audience by means of a magazine-like article and a video. The scope is to assemble and create a piece of work soundly rooted in matter of facts, for which the students will need to carry out a detailed and updated literature involving data gathering, with the goal to address research questions in sustainability and be able to write publishable material of interest for the general public.

    15 credits
    Fundamentals of Sustainable Chemistry

    Chemical processes for commodities of everyday use can largely affect and contribute to our lifestyle. At the same time though, the constantly increasing energy demand of these processes is creating an imbalance to the environment, as many of these processes are unsustainable either energetically or in terms of environmental impact. This module will illustrate, examine and evaluate which requirements are needed to: make a chemical process environmentally sustainable; the impact of anthropogenic activity to the environment; how to transform our society from a fossil fuel based society to a renewable and sustainable resources based society capable of storing and distributing energy in a sustainable manner. This module aims to: 1. Discuss the parameters that are needed to qualify and quantify sustainability. 2. Illustrate methods to qualify and quantify the impact of anthropogenic activity to the environment. 3. Develop students' critical thinking on how to address sustainability challenges in chemical processes. 4. Describe how hydrogen, methanol and biomass can be used as alternative energy generators as opposite to fossil fuels. 5. Explain the working principles and the characteristics of materials for energy storage. 6. Develop students' ability to undertake self-directed learning and formulate ideas in a creative and independent manner.

    15 credits
    Technologies for Sustainability

    Our current manufacturing technologies for chemicals, plastics and construction materials, are carbon intensive technologies and in order to maintain our living standards we need to decarbonise those technologies. In order to achieve this overarching aim, we need to make better use of fossil-based and renewable resources, and move towards a circular economy. Topics include the current status of the industry, life-cycle analysis, non-fossil fuel and feedstocks, and reuse reforming and recycling. This will be focused to the following main areas: Fine chemicals and commodities. This module will discuss the current state-of-the-art of fine chemicals and commodities manufacturing and how to minimize their impact to the environment. Plastic and polymers. Plastic waste is a growing problem and this course will discuss the challenges associated with current plastics, what the alternatives are and whether they will be feasible.

    15 credits
    Current Topics in Industrial Catalysis

    Catalysis either in its homogeneous or heterogeneous forms is a pillar for the chemical industry, where catalysis is used to produce bulk chemicals at large scales and fine chemicals at smaller ones. This module explains the principles as well as the applications of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis by analysing some of the most economically important catalytic reactions. It covers the chemical basis of these processes, and the advantages and disadvantages of heterogeneous and homogeneous systems including sustainability considerations.  Reaction mechanisms and the role of the metal centre, and fundamental physical processes such as adsorption and reaction kinetics, will be discussed in detail, together with the applications of these concepts for scale up purposes. Concepts are illustrated by analysing, in detail, catalytic reactions including hydrogenation, oxidation, carbonylation and polymerisation.

    15 credits
    Research, Presentation and Professional Skills

    This module  aims to prepare students to become professional scientific researchers ready to conduct a research project.  Students will be taught how to retrieve and critically assess the existing literature on a particular research topic and to communicate this as a scientific review. They will learn about the attributes of an ethical researcher, scientific method and how to undertake research safely and responsibly and how to manage data. In addition, students will acquire professional skills relevant to their future employability and learn how to present scientific information. Students will undertake a training needs analysis supported by an experienced researcher so that they can take charge of their own development. This will allow them to tailor their subsequent training to the project they are about to undertake and to their wider individual professional and researcher development. On completion of the module students will have produced a portfolio of work that will form the  foundations of their training as a professional researcher.

    30 credits
    Sustainable Chemistry Research Project

    This module is the major research project associated with the Master of Science in Chemistry and Sustainability, where students undertake an extended and original research by working to solve a topical problem in the field of sustainable chemistry.

    Students will be trained in research methodology using state-of-the-art facilities to help them develop the advanced technical skills they need for their projects.

    They will also put their previous research training and transferable skills into practice through literature searches, communicating their work and presenting their findings.

    60 credits

    Optional modules:

    A student will take 30 credits (two modules) from this group.

    Current Topics in Chemistry of Light

    Understanding processes caused by light is key in chemistry, physics, biology and engineering, and has recently led to many major scientific breakthroughs. This course explains how light and matter interact in molecules, nanostructures and materials. It will explain photoinduced electron and energy transfer - essential processes in nature and everyday life - using examples of natural and artificial photosynthesis. Modern techniques for studying light-induced processes, on time-scales from seconds to femtoseconds, are also covered. More specifically, each spectroscopic technique covered will be described in terms of the physical concepts on which it is based, the information it helps acquire, and the practical concerns associated with it such as resolution, availability, costs, etc. The goal is to bring the students to appreciate the main advantages and constraints of each technique so that they can start developing their own research plan to answer any given research questions.

    The theory grounding light-matter interactions is taught in the context that will be relevant to modern applications in photocatalysis, photonics and optoelectronics, solar energy conversion, phototherapy, imaging, and other light-induced processes in medicine.

    15 credits
    Current Topics in Advanced Materials Chemistry

    Materials chemistry is at the heart of technological solutions to problems that society faces in energy, health care, transport and the environment. This module will focus on functional materials based on supramolecular assembly from molecular components. Students will learn about design strategies, molecular properties, characterisation and material function, and use concepts from coordination chemistry, organic chemistry and solid-state chemistry. The role of materials properties in applications such as sensing, molecular separations, gas adsorption, catalysis, drug delivery, propulsion and gas generation will be discussed in the context of providing technological solutions.

    15 credits
    Current Topics in Catalysis and Asymmetric Synthesis

    Chemists' ability to synthesise organic molecules with defined stereochemistry is the backbone of many useful applications, from medicines to new materials. Modern methods of organic synthesis rely on sophisticated and efficient chemical reactions that create exquisite levels of functional group selectivity and stereochemical control. This module will explain the cutting edge processes that achieve these objectives, in the context of catalysis and stereoselective synthesis. There is a focus on transformations that are promoted by a sub-stoichiometric amount of catalyst. Concepts behind controlling stereochemistry in important synthetic chemical reactions will also be explained. From the generation of new medicines to the creation of new materials, chemists' ability to synthesise molecules with defined stereochemistry is of critical importance. Stereochemical control, exquisite functional group selectivity,  high yield and efficiency are the touchstones of modern organic chemistry. This module will review the cutting edge methods that are used to achieve stereochemical control and catalysis in organic reactions. Students will study transformations that are promoted by a sub-stoichiometric amount of catalyst. Emphasis will be placed on explaining the concepts behind controlling stereochemistry in important chemical reactions for modern organic chemistry.

    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.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    1 year full-time


    You’ll be taught by our academics and research experts in a multi-disciplinary approach, to boost your expertise in a range of settings: lectures, group workshops, group laboratory practicals, and individual research projects.

    Around 12 weeks will typically be spent working on an individual research project alongside PhD students and experienced postdoctoral researchers. Here you’ll gain first-hand experience as a researcher, and have access to the outstanding research facilities in Sheffield.


    Our assessment methods are designed to promote the achievement of learning outcomes and build your professional skills, while giving you confidence and experience in a range of activities . This includes coursework (e.g. essays, videos, articles, policy briefings) as well as your formal dissertation and viva.

    Regular feedback is also provided, so you can understand your own development throughout the course.

    Your career

    This course is great preparation for a PhD or roles in the chemical industry that are focused on sustainability issues.

    There is a need in academia for scientists who can take on sustainability concerns and carry out extensive, cutting-edge research initiatives to address them.

    In industry, there's demand for chemists who can make industrial processes more sustainable, and University of Sheffield chemistry graduates have secured roles at major companies including AstraZeneca, Croda, GSK, Lonza and Unilever.


    We're home to several multimillion pound research facilities that are used to characterise advanced materials and develop chemical and synthetic processes.

    This is backed up by our expertise in catalysis, energy, materials and sustainability, solid state and inorganic synthetic chemistry.


    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    The Soft Matter Analytical Laboratory

    The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences is leading the way with groundbreaking research and innovative teaching. We provide our students with the skills and knowledge to support them in a wide range of careers.

    Chemistry courses at the University of Sheffield are built around cutting-edge science that’s addressing global challenges. Four Nobel Prize winners have been Sheffield chemistry students or researchers, and several of our academics have been named Fellows of the Royal Society or been awarded prizes from other prestigious organisations such as the Royal Society of Chemistry.

    Our chemistry researchers work on many of society’s most pressing challenges, from antimicrobial resistance to environmental sustainability, and they collaborate closely with industry to find solutions and develop innovative new technologies.

    Many of our academics bring first-hand industrial and business experience to their teaching, with many involved in current spin-out companies and collaboration with industrial partners.

    In the Research Excellence Framework 2021, 95 per cent of our chemistry research was rated in the highest two categories as world-leading or internationally excellent.

    We’re home to state-of-the-art chemistry laboratories and several multi-million pound materials science facilities. These include, the Lord Porter Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory, which is used in studies ranging from energy transport in molecules and materials to artificial photosynthesis, the Soft Matter Analytical Laboratory, where scientists can study samples that are 100 times smaller than a human hair, and an array of state-of-the-art instrumentation in the Sheffield Surface Analysis Centre.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in chemistry or a related subject.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

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

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

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


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

    Apply now

    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.