MEng Materials Science and Engineering with Textiles Technology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Control & Design of Polymerisation Reactions

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS42702
Credit rating 15
Unit level Level 7
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Materials
Available as a free choice unit? No


The unit provides extensive coverage of the critical areas of ionic, radical and coordination-insertion homopolymerisations and copolymerisations, including reversible deactivation radical polymerisations. For each polymerisation type, the emphasis is placed on the chemistry of polymerisation and the theory that underpins the fundamental principles and mechanisms for controlling the polymerisation. The course will connect the synthetic routes to polymers to their eventual properties, such as molecular weight (determined through gel-permeation chromatography) and tacticity (determined by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy). 


On completion, the student will

  1. be familiar with the chemistry and methods of key polymerisation methods, including controlled radical, coordination-insertion and ring-opening polymerisations;
  2. communicate, through drawing chemical structures and reactions, the relationship between monomer choice and reaction design; 
  3. appreciate how to change polymer properties through polymerisation design, particularly in application areas of self-assembly, sustainability and vitrimers;
  4. appreciate how to collect and interpret data to verify whether the intended control over design has been achieved.


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 and online learning resources, group tutorials (problem sessions), laboratory sessions, assessed coursework, recommended textbooks, web resources, mock exam papers, past exam papers, electronic supporting information (Blackboard). Formative feedback will be available during synchronous sessions and model solutions to problems.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Identify important monomers and their polymers based on chemical name or structure.
  • Explain the chemistry and mechanism of key polymerisation methods, including controlled radical, ionic, co-ordination-insertion, ring-opening and metathesis polymerisations. 
  • Explain how to control molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, tacticity and copolymer composition in key polymerisation methods, and the resulting impact on polymer properties.
  • Explain important methodologies for characterising (co)polymers, including determination of molar mass and tacticity.
  • Discuss the role of mechanism and design in polymer self-assembly, sustainability and vitrimers.

Intellectual skills

  • Choose appropriate polymers or identify the conditions required to produce a polymer with defined properties, or for a given application.
  • Design and evaluate methods for preparing linear and non-linear (co)polymers by key polymerisation methods.
  • Choose and evaluate methods for characterising (co)polymers.
  • Relate polymer structure and properties with synthesis method.

Practical skills

  • Draw and interpret chemical structures and chemical reaction mechanisms.
  • Analyse the kinetics of a polymerisation and polymer characterisation data.
  • Perform calculations relating to polymer synthesis and characterisation.
  • Select suitable techniques for solving problems on polymer synthesis & characterisation and critically analyse the solution proposed.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Solve problems utilising appropriate methods.
  • Perform calculations.
  • Communicate effectively, including through drawing chemical structures.
  • Show improved logical reasoning, problem solving and ability in applied mathematics and chemistry.

Assessment methods

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

Feedback methods

Feedback given (Written and verbal)

Recommended reading

• “Introduction to Polymers”, R.J. Young and P.A. Lovell, 3rd Edition, CRC Press, 2011 (or                   

   2nd Edition, CRC Press, 1991)

• “Polymer Chemistry: An Introduction”, M.P. Stevens, 3rd Ed., OUP, 1999.

• “Principles of Polymerisation”, G. Odian, all editions

• “Polymers: Chemistry and Physics of Modern Materials”, J.M.G. Cowie, all editions

• “Principles of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry”, P. Haines 

• “Atkins' Physical Chemistry”, P. Atkins and J. de Paula

• “Polymer Chemistry”, C. E. Carraher and R. B. Seymour, 6th ed., Dekker, 2003.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Lee Fielding Unit coordinator

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