MSc Biomaterials

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Soft Matter

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS65602
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Polymer materials that are “soft” play an important role in modern technology ranging from energy generation to biomaterials. This unit covers a number of ‘soft’ polymer systems, providing an understanding of the underlying principles. Lecture topics include:

  • Introduction: Overview of soft matter systems and their applications.
  • Hydrogels: definition and properties, chemical and physical gel concepts, polymeric and self-assembled systems, characterisation rheological and structural (shear rheometry, SAXS/SAXS, thermal properties), application of hydrogels in the food, biomedical and other industries.
  • Swelling of Elastomers: Swelling vs. Crosslinking density of elastomers; Reptation Theory; Physical & Swelling Properties of Elastomer blends; Swelling in Biomaterials.
  • Polymer colloid systems: Colloids and interfaces in biomaterial science; polymers in solution and at interfaces; acid-base behaviour - drug delivery and proteins; DLVO theory; biomaterial-biologic interactions; adsorption of proteins on biomaterial surfaces; non-fouling surfaces: principles and experiments.


The unit aims to:

  • Primarily, to provide an understanding of the principles underlying the behaviour of soft matter: polymer biomaterials, colloids and elastomers.
  • Provide an overview of the properties and applications of polymer biomaterials, colloids and elastomers.


Learning outcomes

A greater depth of the learning outcomes will be covered in the following sections:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Intellectual skills
  • Practical skills
  • Transferable skills and personal qualities

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, group tutorials (problem sessions), recommended textbooks, web resources, past exam papers, electronic supporting information (Blackboard).



Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the underlying physics and chemistry in a range of polymer soft matter systems. 
  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge of polymer soft matter systems.
  • Describe the types and the classifications of liquid and Polymer crystals.
  • Understand the thermodynamics of elastic chains and be familiar with the methods for the characterisation of networks.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of colloids and surfaces in biomaterials science.
  • Describe DLVO theory and use this to predict conditions where adsorption of proteins and bacteria by biomaterial surfaces will occur.
  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge of how polymeric materials are used
  • Knowledge of the applications and commercial limitations of soft polymer systems.
  • Describe the structure of liquid and polymer foams.
  • Describe the structure of biological cell membranes

Intellectual skills

  • Show improved logical reasoning, problem solving and ability in applied mathematics. 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of polymeric network.
  • Explain the three mechanisms for the transport of substances through cell membranes.
  • Explain the difference between Wet and Dry liquid foams.
  • Explain the factors that influence the order parameters in polymer liquid crystals.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of self-assembly
  • Explain the relationships between the structure and properties of hydrogels.
  • Knowledge of the applications and commercial limitations of hydrogel systems.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Solve problems utilising appropriate methods.
  • Assess results critically.
  • Communicate results reliably and effectively.
  • Compose simple technical reports on laboratory tests. 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

Feedback given (Written and verbal).

Recommended reading

  • Principles of Tissue Engineering 3rd Edition, R Lanza, R Langer and J Vacanti.
  • Biomaterials: an introduction, 3rd Edition, J Park and RS Lakes; Springer 2007.
  • Biomaterials Science: An Introduction to Materials in Medicine, 3 editions, BD Ratner et al.

Additional items will be provided through Blackboard


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Brian Saunders Unit coordinator

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