MEng Materials Science and Engineering with Textiles Technology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Materials Synthesis and Sustainability

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS23201
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 5
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Materials
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit introduces the fundamental concepts required to understand materials synthesis and the issue of sustainability in processing and recycling.


The unit aims to: 

  • Introduce thermodynamic concepts related to materials recycling, metal-ore reduction/oxidation/extraction, and ceramic materials production, with a focus on the energy cycle, sustainability and emissions footprint. 
  • Introduce fundamental concepts in polymer science and a selection of commercially-important polymerisation methods.   
  • Introduce the concept of redox reactions, the electro-chemical series, half cells, in relationship to metal extraction, batteries and fuel cells.

Learning outcomes

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

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

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures & online learning resources, group tutorials (problem sessions), assessed coursework, recommended textbooks, web resources, past exam papers, electronic supporting information (Blackboard), peer-assisted study sessions (PASS). Formative feedback will be available during synchronous sessions and model solutions to problems.
Non-assessed question sheets will be set and form the basis of a group tutorials in which the answers will be discussed. Mock /past exam papers are also available.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Compare and contrast metal extraction methods from ores and oxides, with metal recycling and re-use.
  • Explain the theory of redox reactions, electro-chemical half-cells, and demonstrate their application in electro-metallurgy, batteries and fuel cells.
  • Describe and discuss fundamental concepts in polymer science and important uses, sources and recycling of polymers.
  • Discuss and explain the principles and theory underlying important polymerisation methods.
  • Possess the knowledge structure of ceramic materials properties and production processes.


Intellectual skills

  • Draw the structures of common monomers, polymers and chemical reaction schemes for the preparation of polymers and perform calculations realting to the polymer synthesis reactions. 
  • Differentiate the concepts related to recycling, extraction and energy balance.
  • Discuss the issues related to energy production and storage by fuel cells and batteries.
  • Evaluate the environmental impact of recycling. 
  • Develop an awareness of the sustainability of resources.

Practical skills

  • Develop an awareness of the practical aspects related to perforimng polymerisations and techniques to monitor and analyse the extent of reaction.
  • Develop an awareness of the practical aspects related to perforimng simple electrochemical experiments such as: measuring cell potential, measure the current generated by a battery, prepare a simple reference electrode.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Convert word problems into equations and numerical answers.
  • Illustrate complex scientific phenomena graphically.
  • Compose simple technical reports on laboratory tests. 

Assessment methods

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

Feedback methods

Summative Assessment 

Exam: Marks available on student portal.

Coursework: Marked work returned to students within 15 working days of latest due date.

Recommended reading

  • “Engineering Materials 1: an introduction to properties, applications and design” M.F. Ashby and D.R.H. Jones, 2005 
  • “Materials Science and Engineering” W.D. Callister, 2011 
  • Electrochemistry for Materials Science, W.Plieth, Elsevier Science, 2007 
  • Understanding Batteries, R.M. Dell, A.J.Rand, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2001
  • Fundamental of Materials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability, D.S.Ginley, D.Cahen, Cambridge Univeristy Press, 2011 
  • Fuel cells systems explained. Second Edition, Laminie, Dicks,  2013
  • Introduction to Polymers, R.J. Young and P.A. Lovell,3rd Edition, CRC Press, 2011 


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 78

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michele Curioni Unit coordinator

Return to course details