Glass Education

Study Info

Institution, Facilities The University of Sheffield
School Type University
Course Title Glass Science and Engineering - MEng/Glass
Degree MEng/Glass

Contact Info

Address Department of Engineering Materials
The University of Sheffield
S1 3JD
Great Britain

Tel.: +44 114 222 5514
Contact Dr John Parker


Ucas Code: J340

At Sheffield we study ceramics, glasses, metals and polymers together with composite and biomedical materials; indeed we cover all the man-made solid materials on which society depends.
Ceramics are essential for everyday life, for example as tableware or building materials; their high temperature resistance allows their use in engines, gas turbines and nuclear reactors; and many electronic, electrical, and optical components, sensors and biomaterials are based on new ceramics.

Similarly research into the glassy state and associated manufacturing processes has encouraged major advances in the preparation and applications of glass. For instance, new aluminosilicate compositions find various roles in dentistry, neodymium-doped phosphate glasses are used in lasers, and selenide glasses are made into optical fibres, while glass rods with graded refractive indices focus light in CD players.

Three-quarters of all chemical elements are metals. Some rarer metals are crucially important in electronics and communications. For example lightweight magnets are made from neodymium-iron-boron alloys; these also rely on new production techniques such as ultrafast quenching. Developments in the production and processing of conventional alloys have extended their structural, decorative and functional applications by improving quality and lowering costs. As a result, metallurgy is a major teaching and research activity, providing an essential background to such diverse industries as aerospace, construction and sports goods.

Ceramics, glasses and metals have been used since ancient times; by contrast, the synthetic polymer industry has evolved largely in the last 50 years. Polymers are high molecular weight compounds, usually based on carbon, but including silicones and some inorganic materials. They are used widely for furniture, clothing and packages, in buildings, transport and for electronics. Our interests range from plastic containers to electrically conducting polymers and liquid crystal materials for slow drug release.

At Sheffield you can study all these materials, together with composites, whose importance as lightweight, structural components is major. Through our links with dentistry and medicine you can also specialise in medical materials, which are being developed to replace damaged or diseased body parts such as bones, teeth and skin, or as substrates on which new cells can be grown.

We study the production and processing techniques used for different materials and explore the underlying physics and chemistry which controls their structure and properties. We can make and shape most materials, for example by rolling metals, ultrafast quenching, pulling optical fibres, forming glass-polymer and metal-matrix composites, or producing polymer substrates with particular surface chemistry to allow cell culture. Our structure characterisation laboratories include X-ray diffraction, optical and electron microscopy suites and surface analysis. We can resolve structure at the atomic level and have new techniques such as atomic force microscopy.

Teaching & Learning:
Teaching is by means of lectures, laboratory classes, problems classes and tutorials. Lectures give the outline and principles of a subject; by contrast laboratory classes, tutorials and problems classes allow ideas to be tested in practice and particular themes to be explored in depth. Throughout we aim to develop your personal skills. At level three we place more emphasis on projects and case studies. A number of modules in the course are unrestricted. While you may take materials options you may also choose modules from elsewhere in the University, such as a language, computing or management.

Examinations are held twice yearly and are based on individual modules. Practicals form an integral part of the examination scheme and your performance contributes to the grades obtained. Level two examination marks count towards the final degree result and in the final year an individual research exercise also makes a significant contribution.

Our students can also widen their horizons by participating in the Socrates/Erasmus exchange scheme with European Universities. Alternatively we have a one semester exchange arrangements with Alfred and Rolla Universities in the USA. Several students also gain work experience abroad via our international industrial links.

Career Outlook

A Materials degree opens the door to many careers. Recent graduates have been employed in a wide range of companies in engineering, managerial and research posts. These include research and development with Marconi, British Gas, British Telecom and Rolls Royce, process engineering with Pirelli and materials engineering with British Steel and ICL. Other graduates have entered marketing or accountancy or undertaken graduate study at Sheffield or elsewhere.

For those who follow the Medical Materials option, we envisage opportunities within the national and European biomedical industry which is rapidly expanding to meet the demands of an ageing population and the needs for replacement body parts.