With the continued growth of the global aerospace sector and the renewed interest in space systems, there is a real need for specialist engineers with a deep understanding of aerospace materials.

This course enhances specialist skills to develop new materials for next-generation aircraft and future aerospace. You will play a major role in addressing environmental impact and sustainability with the sector.


  • Start dateFull-time: October. Part-time: throughout the year
  • DurationFull-time MSc - one year, Part-time MSc - up to three years, Full-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgCert - two years, Full-time PgDip - one year, Part-time PgDip - 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?

There is a need for engineering graduates with specialist skills to develop new materials for next generation aircraft and the future aerospace industry. During this course you will cover the improvement and development of materials for aviation applications, including materials for airframe, aeroengine and the increased use of smart and functional materials.

Plus the development of new materials, improvement of current materials, and application in new and novel structures.

Why this course?

The course combines Cranfield's long-standing expertise for delivering high-quality Masters' programmes in both aerospace and materials. Our courses receive strong support from the global aerospace industry, both the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) such as Airbus, BA systems, Safran and Rolls-Royce, as well as their tiers of supplier. There is a strong emphasis on applying knowledge in the industrial environment and all teaching is in the context of industrial application.

Informed by Industry

The course is designed to meet the training needs of the aerospace industry and has a strong input from experts in their sector. The Industrial Advisory Board meets during the year to advise on course content, acquisition skills and other attributes which are deemed desirable from graduates of the course. Panel members include professionals from organisations such as BAE Systems, SAFRAN and Rolls-Royce amongst others.

Course details

The modules include lectures, workshops, case studies, tutorials and company visits.

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. Teams of students work to solve an industrial problem. The project applies technical knowledge and provides training in teamwork and the opportunity to develop non-technical aspects of the taught programme. 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 higher degree of success when it comes to securing employment. Prospective employers value the student experience where team working to find solutions to industrially based problems are concerned.

Individual project

The individual thesis project, usually in collaboration with an external organisation, offers students the opportunity to develop their research capability, depth of understanding and ability to provide materials technology and engineering solutions to real problems in aerospace.


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.

Aerospace Materials Properties and Processing

Module Leader
  • Dr Sue Impey

    To develop students’ understanding of materials processing and expected performance requirements relevant to aerospace and astronautic applications.

    • Review requirements for airframe and aero engines
    • Structural metals -light alloys including aluminium and magnesium, titanium,
    • Ceramic and ceramic matrix composites
    • Joining issues specifically adhesively bonded joints and mechanically fastened joints
    • Production of structures containing both carbon fibre reinforced composite and metal (hybrids)
    • Composite performance
    • Active materials (in functional materials module)Maintenance and vehicle heath monitoring

Intended learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Describe likely performance of classes of aerospace materials in the context of specific applications.
2. Use descriptors of strength, stress and strain, and stress-strain relations in the context of aerospace materials and applications.
3. Describe methods of processing aerospace materials particularly joining issues and propose suitable routes for selected applications.
4. Appraise manufacturer’s requirements in the context of maintenance and health monitoring.

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.

Functional Materials

Module Leader
  • Dr Qi Zhang

    To provide specialist training in functional materials and devices for applications in aerospace. The module will explore the way in which different functional and nano materials can be used and structured in energy, transport and aerospace.

    • Functional materials for energy

    o Piezo & pyro electric, conducting, semi conducting, smart, electrochemical energy storage

    • Nano & Micro devices for energy
    o Piezo harvesters
    o Radiation detectors in space
    o Battery & supercapacitor technologies
    o Photo, thermos, electrochromic devices

    o PV & solar cells

    • Materials and devices used in aerospace
    o solar cells
    o semiconductors
    o adaptable thin films
    o sensors
    o actuators

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Describe the operation of a range of small sensing devices derived from functional materials.
2. Select and develop a sensing solution for different environmental situations.
3. Design or critique devices for a specific application in the context of aerospace.
4. Critically evaluate novel devices for sensing solutions.

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

Module Leader
  • Dr Ioannis Giannopoulos

    The course is aimed at giving potential Finite Element USERS basic understanding of the inner workings of the method.

    The objective is to introduce users to the terminology, basic numerical and mathematical aspects of the method. This should help students to avoid some of the more common and important user errors, many of which stem from a "black box" approach to this technique. Some basic guidelines are also given on how to approach the modelling of structures using the Finite Element Method.

    • Background to Finite Element Methods (FEM) and its application
    • Introduction to FE modelling: Idealisation, Discretisation, Meshing and Post Processing
    • Tracking and controlling errors in a finite element analysis. ‘Do’s and don’ts’ of modelling.
    • Illustration of basics of FEM using the Direct Stiffness method to define both terminology and theoretical approach.
    • Problems of large systems of equations for FE, and solution methods.
    • FE method for continua illustrated with membrane and shell elements.
    • Nonlinear analysis in FEM and examples
    • NASTRAN application sessions

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Understand the underlying principles and key aspects of practical application of FEA to structural problems.
2. Understand the main mathematical and numerical aspects of the element formulations for 1D, 2D and 3D elements.
3. Build and analyse finite element models based on structural and continuum elements with proper understanding of limitations of the FEM.
4. Interpret results of the analyses and assess error levels.
5. Critically evaluate the constraints and implications imposed by the finite element method.
6. Extend their knowledge and skills to the FE analysis of more complex structures on their thesis work.

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.


The MSc in Aerospace Materials is accredited by the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IOM3) on behalf of the Engineering Council as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for registration as a Chartered Engineer.  The MSc in Aerospace Materials is also subject to ratifcation Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) & Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) following accreditation visit in March 2015.  Candidates must hold a CEng accredited BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree to comply with the full CEng registration requirements.

Please note accreditation applies to the MSc award. PgDip and PgCert partially meet the further learning requirements for registration as a Chartered Engineer.

In 2019, Cranfield Manufacturing and Materials was honoured to receive a commemorative award from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining recognising continued accreditation for over 15 years.

Your career

This qualification takes you on to senior engineering positions in the aerospace industry with a focus on exploiting next generation materials. Many graduates find employment with one of their project sponsors.

Explore careers in manufacturing with our 'Making an impact in the manufacturing industry' brochure. This brochure highlights journeys taken by professionals in the manufacturing industry through different roles and technologies, as well as providing some key tips to guide you along the way.

How to apply

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at this time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.