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The Material World: Chemistry & Applications - CHE00023I

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  • Department: Chemistry
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Isabel Saez
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2018-19 to Summer Term 2018-19

Module aims

This module builds on the knowledge established in Year 1 of the Chemistry programme. It introduces students to the way in which modern materials have changed our lifestyle beyond recognition, providing an insight into the cutting edge of materials chemistry and how it underpins the technological developments expected in the 21st century. The module focuses in particular on how the molecular structure controls the materials properties and connects with real practical applications. The module introduces general aspects in the topic of materials science (structure and physical properties) and then goes on to explore specific applications of modern organic materials such as LCD technology, widely used in televisions and mobile phones, and supramolecular organisation in polymers. These concepts are followed by studying how nanotechnology is increasingly being integrated into modern advanced materials. In particular, the course will illustrate how developing materials with well-defined molecular nanostructures can lead to new types of behaviour and high-tech applications – for example in optical electronics, imaging and nanomedicine.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content:

  • to examine how the structures of molecules can affect the physical properties of a material, in particular the relationship between molecular structure and mechanical, magnetic and electrical properties.
  • to see how the optical and dielectric properties of liquid crystals and liquid crystal polymers are used in modern TVs and computer screens.
  • to understand the importance of the chemical approach to nanomaterials
  • to study the preparation, analysis and applications of metal nanoparticles.
  • to develop an understanding of conjugated polymers and their applications in opto-electronic and electro-optic devices.
  • to understand how polymer composition and architecture at the nanoscale imparts unique properties and behaviour by examining dendrimers, hydrogels and block copolymers.
  • to study organic-inorganic hybrid materials and to examine how the incorporation of metals leads to new properties and applications.

Academic and graduate skills:

  • Students will be able to explain the link between materials properties and the molecular structure.
  • Students will gain an insight into how fundamental chemistry plays a vital role in informing the assembly of nanomaterials and how synthetic chemists are an essential part of the ‘nano-revolution’

Module content

Nanotechnology relies heavily on our ability to control molecular assembly on the nanometre scale. This module concentrates on the chemical approach to materials and will focus on the study of a range of molecular and nanoscale building blocks with strictly controlled size, shape, composition and surface structure, the concepts and methods used in their synthesis and their properties. A further aim is to be able to link their molecular structure with their bulk properties and to learn how to manipulate them at molecular level in order to attain the properties needed for specific applications. The module will cover the study of liquid crystalline materials, metal nanoparticles, including their synthesis and techniques for their characterisation, “designer” polymers with specific composition and architectures, the role of metals in polymeric materials and how the assembly of nanoscale building blocks leads to structural colour.

Module content:

Introduction to Materials Science (MAB, 6 lectures, 1×1h workshop)

  • Structure, self-assembly, anisotropy and defects of solids and ordered liquids.
  • Allotropy of important elements and their phase transitions.
  • Mechanical properties of solids.
  • Electrical, magnetic and optical properties of materials.
  • Hard matter vs. soft matter.

Nematic Liquid Crystals and Modern Displays (SJC, 6 lectures, 1×1h workshop).

  • Structures of the nematic liquid crystal mesophases.
  • Physical properties of anisotropic fluids and understanding how the properties are related to structure of the liquid crystal material.
  • Synthesis of nematic and chiral nematic liquid crystals.
  • Formulation of nematic liquid crystals for applications.
  • Applications of chirality in nematic liquid crystals for uses in temperature sensors.

Structural Organisation and Self-assembly in Macromolecular Soft Materials (SJC, 6 lectures, 1×1h workshop).

  • Methods of polymerisation.
  • Polymers and liquid crystal polymers. Structural architecture, material properties and structure/property relationships.
  • Linear diblock copolymers. From control of molecular architecture and composition over diblock self-assembly to microphase separation and the formation of unique ordered structures.
  • Star-shaped polymers, cross-linked networks and elastomers. Synthesis, structure and properties.

Inorganic Nanoparticles (VC, 6 lectures, 1×1h workshop, 1x1h assessed workshop)

  • Preparation and stabilisation of inorganic nanoparticles.
  • Tools for nanoparticle characterisation.
  • Size and shape-dependant nanoparticle properties.
  • Applications of nanoparticles.

“Designer” Polymers (GAH, 6 lectures, 1×1h workshop)

  • Conjugated polymers: synthesis, electronic and luminescent properties – applications in display screen technology
  • Dendritic and hyperbranched polymers: synthesis and exploration of how the branched architecture leads to unique behaviour – applications in materials and medicinal chemistry.
  • Synthesis and applications of smart hydrogels.

Organic-inorganic hybrids and Structural colour (ISS, 6 lectures, 1×1h workshop)

  • Defined polymer architectures from metal-catalysed polymerisations.
  • Metal-containing polymeric materials. Synthesis and applications in materials science.
  • Organic-inorganic hybrid materials derived from molecular precursors.
  • Photonic structures from nanoparticles. Responsive materials and structural colour.

Assessment: Inorganic Nanoparticles assessed by assessed workshop; closed examination: students answer two compulsory questions.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed workshop : Inorganic Nanoparticles
1 hours 20
University - closed examination
The Material World: Chemistry & Applications
2 hours 80

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Assessed workshop : Inorganic Nanoparticles
1 hours 20
University - closed examination
The Material World: Chemistry & Applications
2 hours 80

Module feedback

Students will receive feedback on their performance in the workshop assessment within 4 weeks. They will receive verbal feedback on their progress in the formative workshops, which support lectures.

The closed examinations held in the Summer term are marked typically within 4 weeks with mark slips (with per-question break-down) being returned to students via supervisors in week 10 of the Summer Term. Outline answers are made available via the Chemistry web pages when the students receive their marks, so that they can assess their own detailed progress/achievement. The examiners reports for each question are made available to the students via the Chemistry web page

Indicative reading

To be provided by individual tutors

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students