Materials for Energy and Environment

Postgraduate Research

The objectives of this programme are:

  • To equip students with an advanced knowledge of materials science as it applies to energy and environmental technologies.
  • To educate students in research skills including information and literature retrieval, critical interpretation and analysis and effective communication.
  • To supply society with a core of well qualified personnel able to deal with the problems of energy decision making and the implications for the environment.

More information can be found below.


The global challenges in terms of energy and climate are

  1. to meet targets on reduction in carbon dioxide emissions
  2. to achieve long term security of energy supply
  3. to retain economic growth

These challenges require new technologies for carbon capture and sequestration, renewable energy sources and methods of energy storage. In each of these arenas, new products must be brought to market and then encouraged to diffuse as replacements into the community.

Bringing new products to market involves a lead time and the biggest contribution to lead time is the quest for new materials. This is not new. It has been recognized for centuries and indeed new materials are so important to human development that the ages of human progress are appropriately named; stone, bronze, iron and, some would say, silicon!

Time is not on our side. The UK has committed to 80% reduction in CO2 emissions on a 1990 baseline by 2050. CERES, the organization that represents the largest institutional investors would like to see 90% reduction by 2050.

The burden in generating new technologies to meet these targets therefore falls upon Materials Scientists and Engineers providing an opportunity for graduates from physics, chemistry, engineering and other relevant subjects to broaden their strong scientific background into Materials Science, to absorb the professional ethos and in turn, to advance the subject by bringing their own personal experience and strengths.

Manufacturing industry has to change direction, recruit new staff, execute technical developments and adjust to new opportunities and constraints. We are embarking on an era which has the aim of 'sustainability' and materials are at its foundation. Its goal is to moderate the effects of technology on atmospheric composition and climate change. Between 1980 and 2007 world total CO2 outputs increased from 18.3 Pg to 28.2 Pg. The current EU blueprint aims to slash emissions from Europe's biggest polluting industries and to produce 20% of Europe's energy from renewable sources. National systems of innovation (NSI), which include the universities, research centres and government departments working in conjunction with industry need to apprehend new opportunities and change direction, diverting staff to energy and climate issues in response to changing markets and legislation. The Masters programme will help to supply the personnel needs for the era of sustainability.

"Materials for energy applications are a priority for UK R&D as they underpin the entire infrastructure and hence play a vital role in meeting targets on emissions, electricity availability and reduced cost"
(Materials UK Energy Review 2007; Energy Materials: a strategic research agenda, Materials UK, 2007).

Materials Research at UCL

The huge extent of materials research at UCL is spread across many departments; Chemistry, Physics, London Centre for Nanotechnology, Mechanical Engineering, Eastman Dental Institute, Chemical Engineering and others. It is coordinated by the Centre for Materials Research (, one of many UCL centres that have sprung up in recognition that current research directions do not map onto departmental designations.

Energy Research at UCL

Energy research is also spread throughout UCL and coordinated by the UCL Energy Institute. The College has a £10M energy research portfolio spread across 18 departments. Energy issues impact on almost every subject and at UCL it is not just science and engineering but also law, economics, psychology and statistics who participate. A huge national endeavour in energy demand reduction is centred in the Faculty of the Built Environment and there is a substantial industry interaction.

Programme Structure

The course begins towards the end of September each year and finishes in the following September in time to allow progress to MPhil/PhD degree courses.

The course structure is based on a credit system in which 15 UCL credits (equivalent to 6 ects - European credit transfer and accumulation system) each comprise around 150 hours worth of study. For a Masters degree, the learning commitment at UCL is 180 credits, i.e. approximately 1800 hours. The MSc in Materials for Energy and Environment comprises:

  • Taught Course (90 credits)
  • Literature Project (30 credits)
  • Research Project (60 credits)

The course is administered in the Department of Chemistry but students will take units from other Departments at UCL such as Physics, Chemical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering. 

Taught Course

There are four core, 15 credit courses, each with approximately 35 hours of contact time.

Two 15 credit courses are selected from a list of options.

The Core and Optional Unit tabs list the courses on offer.

Literature Project

The literature project requires a critical assessment of an aspect of Materials Science related to energy and environment which forms the basis of the research project but is independently assessed. A dissertation of about 7000 words is required and the standard both in terms of scholarly content and presentational detail should be of the level required if the work were to be published.

Research Project

This represents the largest unit in the programme and is the section of the MSc that allows the candidate to demonstrate originality, inventiveness and skill in planning, executing, interpreting and presenting original research. It is assessed by a written report, an oral presentation and a viva voce examination.

Pass Criteria

The taught units are generally assessed by unseen written examination but may include an element of coursework assessment. The project is assessed by written dissertation, lecture presentation and viva voce examination. 

To be awarded the MSc in Materials for Energy and Environment a student must obtain 50% overall average with a minimum pass mark of 50% in units and 50% pass in the dissertation. In certain circumstances and subject to a decision of the board of Examiners, a condoned pass may be allowed in one course unit in the range 40-49%.

The criteria for the award of merit are an overall average 60% or above and a dissertation mark above 65%.

The criteria for award of distinction are an overall average of 70% or above with a dissertation mark of 70% or above.

Course Units

Students take ALL of the core units and TWO of the optional units (each optional unit is worth 15 credits). Course descriptions are shown below.


Advanced Topics in Energy Science and Materials

(15 credits)

The course provides students with a general knowledge of the importance of physical and chemical properties of materials as applied in energy generation and storage and an understanding of the effects of chemistry, materials structure and defects on product performance and efficiency in energy production and utilization. 

Microstructural Control in Materials Science

(15 credits)

Treating the three main classes of materials, metals, ceramics and polymers in a unified way, this course delivers a thorough assessment of the means available to influence the microstructure of materials in order to influence properties. It thus provides the basic concepts in structure-property relationships in Materials Science encompassing phase equilibria in metals and ceramics, polymer compatibility and solution behaviour, phase transformations, metallurgical interventions, behaviour of semicrystalline polymers, toughening of ceramics. Metal, polymer and ceramic matrix composites will be discussed with examples of preparation methods. A pan-materials classification of manufacturing processes will be presented.

Energy systems and sustainability

(15 credit)

This unit is delivered by the Department of Chemical Engineering. It provides a broad study of conventional and renewable Energy Systems and an advanced knowledge of selected emerging energy technologies. It will develop skills in the design of energy systems with emphasis on sustainability, improving efficiencies and the use of renewable energy sources. It will provide a broad knowledge of the various conventional and renewable energy conversion technologies and enhanced knowledge of selected advanced topics. It will clarify the concept of Sustainable Development in Energy and confer familiarity with issues related to Environmental Impact and Energy Economics. 

Advanced practical chemistry

(15 credits)

The course consist of two components; one is an experimental project requiring a high standard of interpretation and reporting. The other is based on group work and consists of a critical appraisal of a subject area in materials, preparation of a poster and delivery of a short talk.

Research project literature review

(30 units)

This will be linked to the research project and will form the literature search/introduction. It requires a critical assessment of an aspect of Materials Science related to energy and environment which will provide the basis for an experimental or computational study which will form an original piece of research. The standard both in terms of scholarly content and presentational detail should be of the level required if the work were to be published.

Research Project

(60 credits)

This represents the largest unit in the programme and is the section of the MSc that allows the candidate to demonstrate originality, inventiveness and skill in planning, executing, interpreting and presenting original research. It is assessed by a written report, an oral presentation and a viva voce examination. 


Materials and Nanomaterials

This course, delivered by the Department of Physics, provides students with an understanding of the mechanical, electrical, magnetic and optical properties of metals, ceramics and polymers, composites, nanostructured materials and nanocomposites. It provides knowledge and understanding of the relationship between materials properties and microstructure. 

Climate and Energy

The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to the science of climate change, the physics of energy generation and distribution by various means, and the possibility of intervening in the Earth’s climate

Electrical power systems and alternative power systems

(15 credits)

This unit is delivered by the department of Mechanical Engineering. It will develop a fundamental understanding of conventional electrical power systems and alternative sources of energy and examine how they might be integrated into power distribution systems. 

Solid State Physics

This course, delivered by the Physics Depatment, provides a survey of properties of matter upon which most Materials Science is based. It covers crystallography and diffraction, lattice vibrations and phonons, thermal conductivity and specific heat, electrons in solids, semiconductors, devices and magnetism. 

Atom and Photon Physics

This is a modern course, delivered by the Physics Department, on the interaction of atoms and photons which includes single photon interactions with atoms, lasers, chaotic and coherent light, multi-photon interactions, scattering of light and electrons, laser cooling of atoms, Bose condensations and the physics of cold atoms. 

Mastering Entrepreneurship

The aim of the course is to give an understanding of business planning and securing the necessary resources (including finance) for the new business together with the criteria for success of a new business (personal, market and technical). The course draws heavily for illustration and illumination on a wide range of case studies extending from high-technology-based businesses to conventional service-sector studies.

Research Projects

The titles of the research projects available in the 2010/2011 session are shown below:

  • Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells
  • Carbon dioxide capture and storage
  • Nano-structured coatings for energy super-capacitors
  • Optical properties of oceanic foams for climate restoration
  • Advance hydrogen energy storage
  • Ordered nanocomposites for low carbon vehicles
  • Adsorption at the air water interface in oceanic foams
  • Carbon-based nano-structures for CO2 capture
  • CVD coatings on glass for solar energy regulation
  • Modelling of interstitial oxygen diffusion in fuel cell electrolytes

The titles of the research projects available in the 2011/2012 course are shown below:

  • CO2 adsorption and diffusion in microporous materials (MOFs)
  • Porous Carbon Nanostructures for CO2 capture
  • CO2 capture in MOFs : analysis by XRD

  • Next generation nano-enabled dye sensitized solar cells

  • Polymers derived from food waste

  • Polyoxometalate type Catholytes for Fuel Cell Applications

  • A novel method of hydrogen production by electrolysis using a proton pump

  • Polymer-derived carbon structures for CO2 capture

  • Computer modelling of transition metal based hydrogen storage materials.

  • Carbon electrodes for fuel cells

  • CO2 capture materials

How to Apply

Information on the application procedure is included below



In general, applicants should hold a good honours degree (i.e. equivalent to at least a second class honours degree at a British University) in a science or engineering subject, typically materials, chemistry, physics, chemical engineering e.t.c.

Other applicants will be considered if they have relevant postgraduate experience in a science related field. The MSc Course Organiser, Prof. Julian Evans, will advise on this matter. 

The UCL pages containing advice for international students can be found here.

Fees and Funding

Information on fees can be found on the UCL fees page. UCL offers some scholarships for graduate studies, the details of which can be found here.

Application Procedure

Formal application for the course should be done online here

In their application, candidates are asked to provide details of any project work or research they have undertaken. More detailed information can be obtained from the staff member, or ideally by visiting the Department. 

Departmental visits can be arranged by contacting the postgraduate admissions secretary, who will also advise on administrative matters related to MSc application.

Deadline for Application

The deadline for applications is the start of September. Please use the contact form under Further Information for exact dates and times.

Further Information

Information on all aspects of studying at UCL as a postgraduate can be found here and information specifically for international students thinking of studying at UCL can be found here.

For any further information regarding the MSc in Materials for Energy and Environment please contact the course organiser by completing the following form, outlining your request using the Additional Information box.

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