The discovery, development and application of advanced materials is at the heart of engineering innovation. Informed by our close research collaborations with industry we are developing the next generation of talented materials scientists and engineers. With a fundamental interest in materials science this course will develop your understanding of materials’ properties, selection, processing and advanced design procedures.


  • Start dateFull-time: October. Part-time: throughout the year
  • DurationMSc: full-time one year, part-time up to three years; PgDip: full-time up to one year, part-time two years; PgCert: full-time up to one year, part-time two years
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, group project 20% (dissertation for part-time students), individual project 40%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typeFull-time / Part-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

This course is suitable for graduates with science, applied science, maths, engineering or related degrees keen to pursue careers in the development or exploitation of materials; graduates currently working in industry keen to extend their qualifications; individuals wishing to start/progress their career; or individuals with other qualifications who possess considerable relevant experience.

Why this course?

Cranfield University has an enviable track record in the development and application of advanced materials and their associated processing and manufacturing technologies. This spans from our surface engineering coatings used to increase the operating temperature of gas turbine engines to the development of composite material structures for application in some of the world’s most exotic super cars. Our research and commercial work with industry shape our taught programmes (lectures and projects), where our academic teams are leading in their fields.

This course equips students with the knowledge and skills to solve a wide range of engineering challenges. The progressive subject of additive manufacturing is introduced and investigated in the Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing Technologies module. The quest for stronger, lighter, more durable materials is discussed in the Composite Manufacturing, Materials Selection and the Failure of Materials modules. Our ability to modify materials to function in aggressive environments is presented in the Surface Science and Engineering module and the Introduction to Materials Engineering module.

Our research centres in enhanced composites and structures, surface engineering and precision and welding engineering are integrated into the delivery of the course through our research and teaching teams, who are passionate in sharing their knowledge and experience in materials. 

The group and individual projects are often sponsored by industry giving you highly relevant context to your studies and practical work. With access to many of our unique laboratories and facilities,  working alongside our leading research teams Cranfield is the perfect environment to launch your career.

Informed by industry

Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. Our advisory panel has members from well-known companies such as Bentley, NCC, Micro Materials and Rolls-Royce. Students who have excelled have their performances recognised through course awards. The awards are provided by high-profile organisations and individuals, and are often sponsored by our industrial partners. Awards are presented on Graduation Day.

Course details

The course comprises eight assessed modules, a group project and an individual research project.

The modules include lectures and tutorials, and are assessed through practical work, written examinations, case studies, essays, presentations and tests. These provide the 'tools' required for the group and individual projects.

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, group project 20% (dissertation for part-time students), individual project 40%

Group project

The group project experience is highly valued by both students and prospective employers where teams of students develop both technical and team working skills to solve an industrial problem. Part-time students can prepare a dissertation on an agreed topic in place of the group project.

Industrially orientated, our team projects have support from external organisations. As a result of external engagement, Cranfield students enjoy a high degree of success when it comes to securing employment.

Examples of group projects include:

  1. Self-lubricating coatings for novel power dense rotary engine: sponsored by Enigma England, the project looked to provide an innovative materials solution to allow a dry lubrication system for their rotary engine. Self-lubricating coatings were investigated, and characterisation tests completed to determine tribological properties alongside the simulation of the mechanical environment in the engine. Microscopy and SEM imaging were also used by the students to observe the material surfaces. The project concluded with a recommendation for the rotor (hard anodised aluminium 2024 coated with PTFE ) and the chamber (AMC4632) of the engine.
  2. Solar desalination – off-grid water treatment technology: this innovative British Council sponsored project looks to help provide an innovative solution to a lack of clean water supplies in the hottest regions on Earth. The student team developed a low-cost desalination system that’s easy to maintain and can be disassembled for transportation. The materials innovation incorporated Fresnel lenses into the desalination system.

Individual project

Students select the individual project in consultation with the Course Director. The individual project provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to carry out independent research, think and work in an original way, contribute to knowledge and overcome genuine problems.

Examples of individual projects include:

  • Material selection of a polymer for high-temperature automotive connectors;
  • Investigation of plasma cleaning process for wire+arc additive manufacturing.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Introduction to Materials Engineering

Module Leader
  • Dr Sue Impey

    The aim of this module is to enable the student to understand the structure and properties of materials, to understand how fabrication processes affect structure and properties, and how this determines materials properties, and to apply this knowledge to materials in applications.

    • Introduction to materials: Atomic structure, crystal structure, imperfections, diffusion, mechanical properties, dislocations and strengthening mechanisms, phase diagrams, phase transformations, solidification,corrosion.
    • Basic and alloy steels, tensile behaviour of metals, work and precipitation hardening, recovery and recrystallisation.
    • Structural steels - C-Mn ferrite-pearlite structural steels, specifications and influence of composition, heat treatment and microstructure on mechanical properties. Fracture, weldability and the influence of welding on mechanical properties.
    • Corrosion Resistant Materials - Stainless steels - austenitic, ferritic, martensitic and duplex stainless steels- compositions, microstructures, properties.
    • Welding and joining processes, weld metal, heat affected zones and weld cracking.
    • Non-metallic Materials - Polymers and composites manufacturing issues, physical properties and mechanical behaviour. Structure and properties and applications of ceramics.
    • Principles underlying electrical and magnetic properties of materials.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Understand the basic principles of material structures on a micro and macro scale, and be able to relate microstructureto mechanical performance.
2. Explain how the chemical composition, microstructure and processing route for steels and non-ferrous alloys influence the resulting mechanical properties.
3. Identify and apply methodologies for the selection of specific materials (steels, stainless steels, polymers, composites, and corrosion resistant alloys) for different applications
4. Be able to relate fracture, corrosion and welding behaviour to particular alloys.
5. Be able to select appropriate manufacturing processes for composites and ceramics.
6. Relate magnetic and electrical behaviour of materials to specific materials.

Failure of Materials and Structures


    To provide an understanding of why materials and structures fail and how failure conditions can be predicted in metallic and non-metallic components and structures.

    • Overview of failure behaviour of cracked bodies; crack size influence, brittle and ductile behaviour; influence of material properties. Cyclic loading and chemical environment. Thermodynamic criteria and energy balance; Griffith’s approach, modifications by Orowan. Strain energy release rate, compliance, applications to fibre composites.
    • LEFM and crack tip stress fields, stress concentration, stress intensity, plane stress and plane strain. Fracture toughness in metallic materials, fracture toughness testing, calculations of critical defect sizes and failure stress. Crack tip plastic zones; the HRR field, CTOD, J Elastic- plastic failure criteria. Defect assessment failure assessment diagrams.
    • Fracture of rigid polymers and standard tests for fracture resistance of polymers. Delamination fatigue tests. Emerging CEN/ISO standards, current ESIS test procedures.
    • Crack extension under cyclic loading; Regimes of fatigue crack growth; Influence of material properties and crack tip plastic zones; Calculation of crack growth life and defect assessment in fatigue; Crack closure and variable amplitude loading; Short cracks and the limits of LEFM.
    • Software design tools for fatigue crack growth.
    • Static loading-stress corrosion cracking; corrosion fatigue.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

1. Assess the different regimes and processes of failure of cracked bodies and describe the factors controlling them and the boundaries and limits between them.
2. Distinguish the principles of Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM) and demonstrate their application to cracks in brittle, ductile and fibre composites through calculation of static failure conditions.
3. Calculate the limits of applicability of LEFM and apply modified predictive tools such as elastic-plastic fracture mechanics and failure assessment diagrams for calculation of failure.
4. Appraise fracture mechanics to failure of cracked bodies under cyclic loads and under aggressive chemical environments to evaluate and predict service lives of structures.
5. Evaluate laboratory fracture mechanics data and critically assess its validity for application to particular engineering situations.

Finite Element Analysis

    Provide both an introduction to the theory underpinning finite element analysis (FEA) and hands on experience using the well-established FEA package named Ansys.
    • Overview of the FEA method, pre-processing, solution. and post-processing, basic terminology, range of applications;
    • Presentation of a software package named Ansys.
    • Presentation of FEA for mechanical linear (elasticity) analysis mechanical analysis using various element types: bars, beams, 2D, 3D, shell elements.
    • Presentation of CAD model, meshing, symmetry, model development, implementation of force boundary conditions, solution, and post processor analysis.
    • Presentation of FEA for heat transfer analysis, equivalence with other field problems, convergence issue, boundary conditions, model creation and solution.
    • FEA for advanced analysis: geometric non-linearity, material non-linearity, contact problems, dynamic problems, and explicit solution.
    • Materials modelling: Ab initio modelling, Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulation, phase diagrams, diffusion-kinetics-microstructure.
    • Applications of FEA to enhanced mechanical designs: optimisation, model uncertainty, variability and Monte Carlo simulations.
    • Typical application areas include aerospace, automotive, impact, composites, MEMS, offshore.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

  1. Describe and review finite element analysis (FEA) method and its uses.
  2. Recognise and evaluate considerations for applying FEA to component modelling.
  3. Identify the limitations associated with the use of FEA.
  4. Use a commercial FEA software package.
  5. Demonstrate an approach for solving a range of problems.
  6. Interpret and critically assess the results obtained from FEA.
  7. Describe the capabilities of commercial FEA software packages available.
  8. Examine the role of FEA in the component design/optimisation process.

General Management


    To give an introduction to some of the key general management, personal management and project management skills needed to influence and implement change.

    • Management Accounting Principles and Systems;
    • Personal style and team contribution, interpersonal dynamics, leadership, human and cultural diversity;
    • Project Management: structure and tools for project management
    • Introduction to standards: awareness of standards, relevant standards (quality, environment and H&S), value of using standards, management of the standard and audit.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Understand the objectives, principles, terminology and systems of management accounting.
2. Have an appreciation of inter-relationships between functional responsibilities in a company.
3. Have a practical understanding of different management styles, team roles, different cultures, and how the management of human diversity can impact organisational performance.
4. Have an understanding of structure, aspects, and tools for project management.
5. Critique the role of standards and their management in manufacturing.

Materials Selection

Module Leader
  • Dr Sue Impey
  • Dr David Ayre

    The aim of this module is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to enable them to carry out the selection of appropriate materials for a wide range of engineering and other applications. The module also encourages the use of knowledge of a range of materials properties and skills acquired during other modules on the course.

    • Principles of materials selection: Materials selection procedures. Check lists. Elementary stressing calculations. Choice of fabrication techniques. Case studies. Data sources. Material selection group exercise. Material selection individual exercise.
    • Specific polymers and composites: The structure, properties, processing characteristics and applications for the commercially important polymers. General classes of polymers: commodity, engineering and speciality thermoplastics, thermosetting resins, rubbers. Variation in behaviour within families of polymers: crystallinity, rubber toughened grades; reinforced and filled polymers.
    • Specific metals, alloys: The metallurgy, properties, applications and potentialities of metals and alloys in a wide variety of engineering environments. Specific metals and alloys both for general use and for more demanding applications. Titanium, nickel and magnesium based alloys, intermetallics, steels. The design of alloys, current developments in the field of light alloys, steels, high temperature materials. Development of current aerospace aluminium alloys: precipitation hardening, effect of precipitates on mechanical properties, designation of aluminium alloys, alloys based on Al-Cu, alloys based on Al-Zn. Applications.
    • Introduction to engineering ceramics: introduction to particulate engineering, thermodynamic and kinetic requirements for powder processing, Interparticle forces.
    • Ceramic forming techniques, Sintering and densification, processing related properties of ceramics: structural and functional.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to demonstrate:
1. Use of a wide range of materials that will enable students to undertake materials selection effectively, using appropriate reference sources (books, data sheets, computer databases etc).
2. Familiarity with the chemical names and/or compositions of metals and alloys.
3. An understanding of the ranges of properties and processing characteristics exhibited by the above materials, including the variations within a single family and the differences between families of materials.
4. A systematic approach to the selection of material(s) to meet the requirements of a component design brief.
5. Appropriate selection of component manufacturing method(s) as part of the materials selection exercise.
6. The selection of material and manufacturing method(s) for selected example components.
7. Ability to make informed decisions about materials and process selection, including cases where possible materials come from different material classes
8. Effective oral or written presentations to justify materials selection.

Surface Science and Engineering

Module Leader
  • Professor John Nicholls
    To provide an understanding of the role that surfaces play in materials behaviour; concentrating on corrosion and wear processes. To introduce the concepts of surface engineering and how surface engineering may be used to optimise a component’s performance. To introduce suitable analytical techniques used to evaluate and characterise surfaces and thin samples.
      • Philosophy of surface engineering, general applications and requirements.
      • Basic principles of electrochemistry and aqueous corrosion processes; corrosion problems in the aerospace industry; general corrosion, pitting corrosion, crevice corrosion, influence of deposits and anaerobic conditions; exfoliation corrosion; corrosion control; high temperature oxidation and hot corrosion; corrosion/mechanical property interactions.
      • Friction and Wear: Abrasive, erosive and sliding wear. The interaction between wear and corrosion.
      • Analytical Techniques: X-ray diffraction, TEM, SEM and EDX, WDX analysis, surface analysis by AES, XPS and SIMS.
      • Surface engineering as part of a manufacturing process.
      • Integrating coating systems into the design process.
      • Coating manufacturing processes.
      • Electro deposition, flame spraying, plasma spray, sol-gel.
      • Physical vapour deposition, chemical vapour deposition, ion beam.
      • Coating systems for corrosion and wear protection.
      • Coating systems for gas turbines.
      • New coating concepts including multi-layer structures, functionally gradient materials, intermetallic barrier coatings and thermal barrier coatings.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a practical understanding of surface engineering as part of the manufacturing process, describing how to introduce coating systems as part of component design.
2. Summarise and critically appraise new coating concepts, including multi-layered structures and functionally gradient materials and select appropriate coating manufacturing processes, giving examples of their applications.
3. Describe oxidation and high temperature corrosion processes, including the factors that control the rates of corrosion at high temperatures.
4. Summarise and critically discuss the main types of corrosion damage, the conditions under which they occur.
5. Explain the principles of aqueous corrosion and select appropriate methods of corrosion control.
6. Predict the behaviour of friction and wear, including abrasive, erosive and sliding wear. Design for wear resistance, including the selection of suitable coating systems.
7. Review possible interactions between corrosion and wear processes. Give examples of microstructural characteristics used to describe materials and recommend techniques to characterise surfaces and describe their principles of operation.

Composites Manufacturing for High Performance Structures

Module Leader
  • Andrew Mills

    To provide a detailed awareness of current and emerging manufacturing technology for high performance composite components and structures and an understanding of materials selection and the design process for effective parts manufacturing.

    • Background to thermosetting and thermoplastic polymer matrix composites
    • Practical demonstrations – lab work
    • Overview of established manufacturing processes, developing processes, automation and machining
    • Introduction to emerging process developments; automation, textile preforming, through thickness reinforcement
    • Design for manufacture, assembly techniques and manufacturing cost
    • Case studies from aerospace, automotive, motorsport, marine and energy sectors
    • DVD demonstrations of all processing routes
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

1. Demonstrate awareness of the range of modern manufacturing techniques for thermoset and thermoplastic type composites.
2. Select appropriate manufacturing techniques for a given composite structure/ application.
3. Demonstrate practical handling of prepregs and a range of fibre forms and resins.
4. Describe current areas of technology development for composites processing.
5. Demonstrate awareness of the design process for high performance composite structures and the influence on design of the manufacturing process.
6. Evaluate performance-cost balance implications of materials and process choice.

Design Durability and Integrity of Composite Aircraft Structures


    The course seeks to provide engineers with knowledge of polymer composite properties and behaviour relevant to their in-service performance durability and maintenance in aircraft structures

    Basic principles
    Introduction to composite materials comparison of relevant mechanical and service properties to those of metals; manufacturing process and relation of process and constituents to service performance.

    Regulatory background

    Requirements for fatigue and damage tolerant design in civil and military aircraft as implemented for polymer composite structures. Requirements for rotorcraft and for large fixed wing aircraft.

    Structural analysis
    Brief summary of methods and techniques for stress analysis and aircraft design using polymer composite materials.

    Fatigue analysis
    In-plane fatigue and failure processes; stiffness and strength changes under fatigue loading; fatigue notch effects in polymer composite laminates; cycle counting techniques and variable amplitude loading in metallic and polymer composite materials; life assessment and calculation procedures for design against in-plane fatigue.

    Delamination crack growth and fracture mechanics
    Basic theory of linear elastic fracture mechanics; strain energy release rate; applications to delamination crack growth in polymer composite laminates; delamination crack growth testing under static and fatigue loading; laboratory testing to measure Mode I and Mode II interlaminar fracture toughness (GIC and GIIC); comparison with stress intensity approaches in metallic materials; calculation of delamination behaviour of small samples and of aircraft structures. Damage tolerance issues in composites.

    Service degradation processes
    Impact damage in polymer composite laminates
    Response of polymer composites to out-of-plane impact loading; laboratory testing, effects of velocity, mass and impacting body shape on damage produced; damage morphologies, barely visible impact damage (BVID) concepts; effects of laminate constituents on damage resistance; effects of in-plane loading on impact damage growth and laminate strength; compression and fatigue after impact; design against impact damage.

    Service environment issues
    Including response to temperature and humidity; bird strike; in- service damage detection in composite structures; repairs; operator experience with polymer composite aircraft structures. Structural test requirements to prove airworthiness.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Describe the properties and manufacture techniques of polymer composite materials, and of the basic approaches to design with them.
2. Categorise the aircraft service degradation processes of polymer composite laminates involving fatigue, impact loading, temperature and humidity fluctuations.
3. Evaluate the effect aircraft service degradation processes have on strength and durability of the composite.
4. Undertake simple calculations of damage tolerance based on laboratory test data.
5. Formulate structural and coupon sample test requirements to demonstrate the adequacy of the static and fatigue strength and damage tolerance of a composite aircraft structure.
6. Critically appraise the design principles and relate them to structural safety considerations in the appropriate regulatory context, for both new designs and in- service aircraft.

Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing Technologies


    To provide the student with an understanding of the principles behind some of the most recent developments in the processing of high value added components. There is a strong emphasis on high efficiency and reduced cost in the manufacture of high volume and/or high value added parts using the latest technology based around advanced machining processes and additive techniques. The module will cover the physical principles, operating characteristics and practical aspects related to these key technologies.

    • Metal cutting processes and practice
    • Abrasive machining processes and practice
    • Non-conventional machining including photochemical machining and associated metal removal and addition processes
    • Micro machining and micro moulding
    • Machine tool components and machine-materials interactions.
Intended learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

1. Critically review recent developments in machining and fabrication processes for the production of engineering components and identify their main areas of application and limitations.
2. Describe and apply the relationships between material properties, processing conditions and component service performance.
3. Analyse how the physical principles behind the operation of these processes can be used to monitor process capability and performance.
4. Apply design rules and fabrication techniques to manufacture micro components.
5. Assess different routes for the high volume manufacture of micro components.

Teaching team

You will be taught by industry-active research academics from Cranfield with an established track record, supported by visiting lecturers from industry. To ensure the programme is aligned to industry needs, the course is directed by an Industrial Advisory Committee. The Course Director for this programme is Dr David Ayre, the Admissions Tutor for this programme is Dr Sameer Rahatekar.

The Advanced Materials course opened up a lot of opportunities for me and as a direct result of my thesis project, my visibility across the automotive industries increased. I also had the chance to publish papers and present as a speaker at Automotive related conferences.

We were very lucky to be able to work so closely with Airbus as our industrial supervisor on our group project. We had regular communications with them, face-to face and via email and they gave a lot of feedback too so we were very fortunate for that.


Re-accreditation for the MSc in Advanced Materials is currently being sought with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)The Welding Institute (TWI), Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IOM3),Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) on behalf of the Engineering Council as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for registration as a Chartered Engineer.  Candidates must hold a CEng accredited BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree to comply with full CEng registration requirements

In 2019, Cranfield Manufacturing and Materials was honoured to receive a commemorative award from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) recognising continued accreditation for over 15 years. There is a re-accreditation visit in 2020 from IOM3.

Please note accreditation applies to the MSc award. PgDip and PgCert do not meet in full the further learning requirements for registration as a Chartered Engineer.

Your career

On completion of this MSc, graduates have a broader network of global contacts, increased opportunities for individual specialism and a wide range of careers options involving materials with responsibilities in research, development, design, engineering, consultancy and management.

Our graduates find careers with global industries alongside innovative start-ups and SMEs which have included:

  • Airbus,
  • Cytec Industries,
  • Marshalls Aerospace,
  • National Composites Centre,
  • Nippon Sheet Glass Co. Ltd,
  • Rolls-Royce,
  • Solvay.

Some graduates prefer to stay in academia and enter into research at universities across Europe. Most continue in a career associated with engineering and materials, seeking solutions to industries' challenges across the whole spectrum of civil, electrical, energy, industrial, manufacturing and transportation activities.

Cranfield Careers Service

Cranfield’s Career Service is dedicated to helping you meet your career aspirations. You will have access to career coaching and advice, CV development, interview practice, access to hundreds of available jobs via our Symplicity platform and opportunities to meet recruiting employers at our careers fairs. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. We will support you in the job application process for up to three years after graduation.