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    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.
    Image of postgraduate Materials Science and Engineering student with equipment

    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.


    Fully accredited by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. Graduates will have the underpinning knowledge for later professional registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng).


    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:

    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.

    15 credits
    Materials Processing and Characterisation

    This module introduces experimental methods used to characterise metals, polymers, ceramics and composites and the processes and technologies involved in the production of these materials.

    Topics covered are split into two areas:Characterisation: Analysis of materials using a range of techniques, e.g., diffraction, spectroscopy and thermal analysisProcessing: Manufacturing of materials and parts, e.g., powder, thermomechanical and moulding

    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 (MATLAB) together with an introduction to finite element modelling (FEM) using 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 presents the underlying theory of heat transfer and diffusion, covering the derivation and solution to important and frequently encountered engineering problems. 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 chemical thermodynamics.  The course introduces analytical solutions to diffusion and heat transfer problems considering a range of boundary conditions and geometry. Spectral methods are covered briefly, with a focus on numerical solutions obtained using the finite difference method. The course is assessed through an exam and coursework. The exam assesses the background knowledge of heat transfer and diffusion, in addition to the ability to apply analytical solutions to solve industrial problems. A coursework assignment builds upon this knowledge to explore problems involving more complex boundary conditions and more detailed descriptions of material properties using the finite difference method. 

    15 credits

    Students undertake a project on a topic agreed with their allocated academic supervisor; supervisor allocation takes into accounts students' specific interests. The project is an original research investigation carried out within a research group in the Department; to develop students' abilities to interact within a research group a defined piece of group work is undertaken early in the project. All projects include a literature survey involving students reading original papers and review articles from the scientific and technical literature. Most projects involve extensive laboratory work although some may be based primarily on a survey of the published literature or computational studies. The assessment of the project includes assessment of the group work, an interim report and final report along with a presentation on the work to staff and other students and an oral examination. Conduct throughout the project is also assessed.

    60 credits

    Choose one from this group

    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 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 module 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.

    15 credits
    Functional and Structural Ceramics

    This unit covers inorganic and functional materials building on earlier courses. Coverage will focus on materials processing, crystal and defect chemistry, electrical transport, magnetic properties and theory, industrial applications and state of the art assessment of materials development strategies. 

    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

    And choose one from this group

    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. 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

    And choose one from this group

    Sustainable Materials Manufacturing

    Materials production technologies are often energy intensive resulting in high CO2 emissions as well as other environmental impacts. Many of these materials are also essential in enabling the green transition. This module will examine methods for carbon reduction across a range of the materials industries including steelmaking, bulk glass production and cement manufacture. The development of new production technologies and/or alternative compositions will be examined. This will be supported by a consideration of life cycle assessment and the potential for industrial symbiosis approaches for minimising the overall environmental impact of materials manufacturing processes. 

    The overall aims of the module are to develop your knowledge and understanding of a) the environmental impacts of a range of current and novel materials production processes and b) potential approaches, and their technological limitations, to the decarbonisation of a range of materials production processes, c) the use of life cycle analysis in assessing the environmental impacts of materials processing routes.

    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

    This unit aims to develop your knowledge and understanding of the main groups of functional inorganic materials, their synthesis, structure, properties and uses for a wide variety of specific applications.

    Inorganic solids have many applications as both functional and structural materials because of their ability to exhibit a complete spectrum of electrical, magnetic, optical, thermal and multifunctional properties.

    This course follows on from the introductory courses MAT6664 and MAT6665. It extends structural chemistry to cover the most important crystal structures of inorganic materials, such as spinels, perovskites, fluorites and silicates and the various diffraction and spectroscopic techniques that may be used to characterise materials. Use and interpretation of phase diagrams is extended to cover ternary systems and phase transitions are introduced. Inorganic solids can have variable composition by ion substitutions and the strategies that are used to dope materials and modify their properties will be presented.

    Structure-composition-property relations for a range of inorganic materials will be discussed and an overview given of their electrical, magnetic and optical properties. Examples include:

    solid electrolytes, especially β-alumina and yttria-stabilised zirconia, their structures, electrical properties and applications 

    15 credits

    And choose one form this group

    Energy Generation and Storage

    Decarbonisation of society through electrification of transport and industry requires a large-scale switch to nuclear and renewable energy generation associated with non-fossil fuel based energy storage and recovery methods.

    The aims of this module are to develop your knowledge and understanding of the materials challenges inherent in

    a) the next generation of nuclear reactors including fusion reactors; b) the hydrogen economy;

    c) current and novel battery technologies and d) novel energy recovery technologies.

    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, the design of composites is taught via tutorials on classical laminate theory. An extended series of worked examples provides you with the basic tools you need to design effective composite parts. Second, the 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

    This unit introduces key concepts with regards to Materials 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. Modelling and simulation is a key enabling technology within Aerospace Technology Institute's strategy to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. Modelling allows for the rapid insertion of new materials and manufacturing processes, in addition to the improved understanding and optimisation of current methods. The course includes key drivers in reaching zero carbon emissions, covering lithium battery manufacturing and coating technologies.

    This unit aims to provide knowledge and experience of advanced manufacturing techniques that will underpin the UK's future advanced materials manufacturing base and obtain knowledge and experience of advanced manufacturing process and material modelling to solve industrial problems.


    15 credits
    Nanostructures and Nano-structuring

    This course aims to provide a combined introduction to important groups of nanostructured materials along with the key technologies of how to fabricate and characterise nanostructures. On the materials side, the focus is on  free-standing nanoobjects or assemblies of these, ranging from functional nanoparticles (semiconducting, oxidic, metallic), over carbon nanotubes to metallic and insulating nanowires, to conclude with nanoporous materials. On the methodology side, methods of nanopatterning, nanocharacterisation, nanomanipulation or nanometrology are presented, including Focused Ion Beam microscopy, Scanning Probe microscopy, and piezoelectric actuation. Examples of application fields presented include electronic circuit elements, field emission, solar cells, energy storage, biomedical usage, structural composites, photonic crystals, and environmental remediation.

    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


    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.


    Department of Materials Science and Engineering

    Materials science and engineering is an extraordinarily interdisciplinary subject that underpins so many aspects of our society and has a huge impact in pretty much all engineering sectors from aerospace, to automotive, to the biomedical sciences, the energy sector and beyond.

    Sheffield has long been a centre of materials innovation. With a history of research excellence that can be traced back more than 135 years, this department was one of the foundation stones of the University.

    Being at the centre of such a diverse subject area, our researchers at Sheffield are solving some of the most pressing challenges faced by society.

    Our work covers solutions across all sustainability challenges from biodegradable polymers, to clean energy, to recyclability and decarbonisation within the foundation industries, to novel low-energy methods for the manufacture of materials for energy. For example we are champions of atomic energy leading the way towards effective solutions for nuclear waste immobilisation as well as designing the materials to enable atomic fusion thus providing solutions to green energy.

    We strive to give you a valuable and unforgettable university experience. By accessing state-of-the-art multidisciplinary engineering laboratories, direct contact with industrial partners, and excellent learning resources, you will be given the opportunity and support to develop the skills you need to succeed at university and flourish in your career once you graduate.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in materials, a physical science (chemistry or physics) or a related engineering 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.

    Fees and funding

    Scholarships of up to £3000 are available on the basis of academic excellence and Access and Participation criteria. UK students only. 


    You can apply now 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.