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More resources for schools about our material world

Why develop new materials?

Material science studies the properties and behaviour of different and new materials. These new materials improve efficiency, solve problems and make life easier. These benefits include improving our understanding of catalysts, extending the life of hip implants, understanding and making use of the proteins found in our natural world, improving the strength of aeroplane wings and facilitating the use of clean fuels. Spin offs from the research and development into new materials can have further far off impacts that benefit society.

Utilising cutting edge facilities such as the Cryogenics Lab at Edinburgh’s ATC, accelerators like the ISIS neutron and muon source, the Diamond light source in Harwell and Versatile Electron Linear Accelerator (VELA) in Daresbury, world leading microscopes such as EPSRC’s SuperSTEM, and Super Computer modelling such as The Hartree Centre allows innovative researchers to push the boundaries of what is currently possible and delve deeper into this ever changing and fascinating world.


Following we have a selection of interesting and interactive resources such as websites, films, animations, apps, publications and guides. These can be used in classroom or as background information for yourself.

Researchers make a breakthrough in the field of Hydrogen Storage.

How do they grow and analyse protein crystals?

More Videos

  • Inside Diamond
    A shutdown at the Diamond Light Source lets us deep inside the giant synchrotron.
  • DNA and Lasers
    Lasers have multiple uses when studying the processes of DNA.
  • How to make Neutrons
    A quick tour of the enormous ISIS facility - where beams of neutrons are used for scientific research.


Free printed resources available to order directly online.

A century of crystallography

One hundred years ago, two scientists in the UK pioneered a method for uncovering how the atoms in a crystal were arranged. The science of crystallography was born.


Lasers are concentrated beams of electromagnetic radiation (light) travelling in a particular direction.


Neutrons are abundant throughout nature. Along with protons and electrons, they form the basic building blocks of the material world.

CPD Opportunities

There are various organisations providing training opportunities across the UK relating to teaching Material Science at different levels.

  1. The Science Learning Network CPD Programme runs nationwide including courses looking at New Materials and Nanotechnology. See their website for the latest courses and dates available.
  2. The Goldsmiths Science for Society Teachers Course; Material Science is based at University of Cambridge. The course provides insights into the broad field of materials, spanning the physical sciences, engineering and biomedicine. Subjects as diverse as structural materials, electronic devices, biomedical materials and manufacturing are covered by means of lectures, hands-on practical sessions and a visit to Johnson Matthey (a global speciality chemicals company). See the website for the latest information.
  3. 'Physics Update' (organised every two years by the Institute of Physics) is a residential workshop to support physics teachers and to which the Department of Materials Science contributes by running workshops and lectures.

How the our material world theme covers the national curriculum:

Materials science is taught at varying ages throughout the United Kingdom. The stories coming out of STFC funded material science research and development link to the national curriculum in the following ways. Stories include the development of ceramics, polymers and composites and materials that affect the transmission of light though absorption, diffuse scattering and specular reflection. Certain materials are involved with the development of new technology, detectors for example that make use of light, transforming the energy leading to chemical and electrical effects. There are new photosensitive materials being developed for new types of camera.

There are many useful applications for the Polymers and Smart Materials (based on some very interesting properties) developed through STFC research and development. New smart materials including nanomaterials, fullerenes and shape memory materials, have intriguing properties which make them capable of some fascinating science.

The development of new materials has for example improved the prospects of developing a safe and reliable means of utilising greener alternative fuels where storage and use is an issue, particularly involving hydrogen and the development of more efficient hydrogen fuel cells.

Contacts and speakers for our material world

The our material world theme is led by Phill Day who is Public Engagement Programme Manager at Daresbury Laboratory. Please contact him for further information and questions.

  • Materials Science is covered through the Chemistry department at the University of St Andrews, the schools Outreach Officer is Dr Richard Baker.
  • Materials Chemistry is run through the department of Chemistry at the University of Liverpool who have an active outreach programme dedicated to promoting Chemistry as a subject, interest and career. Contact the Outreach team.
  • The Centre for Materials Physics supports the Durham University Science Outreach scheme. Contact Dr Paula Martin for details.
  • Members of the School of Materials at the University of Manchester are available to deliver public lectures on topics such as materials for nuclear energy, 'smart' textiles, nanotechnology, polymers and composites, graphene, scaffolds for tissue engineering, and metals. For more information about public engagement activities related to materials science and engineering, please contact Dr Christopher Blanford. For more information about public engagement related to textiles, design, fashion and business, please contact Dr Sonja Andrew.
  • The department of Materials at Imperial College London are involved in Outreach, please contact Dr Sujata Kundu.
  • The School of Engineering and Materials Science at Queen Mary’s University in London run events with schools. The contact there is Corinne Hanlon.
  • The Department of Materials at Oxford University have an active schools Outreach programme. Please contact Jayne Shaw for details.

STEM Ambassadors use their enthusiasm and commitment to encourage young people to enjoy STEM subjects. They open the doors to a world of opportunities and possibilities which come from pursuing STEM subjects and careers. Find out more on the STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) website.

Even more resources for schools

  • The STEM e-Library for Material Science has a number of resources related to Materials that can be used in schools.
  • Since 1997, MATTER has been producing CD-ROMs and interactive web sites designed specifically for school science working closely with teachers and their pupils.
  • Science and Engineering Experiments for Kids – SeeK – is managed by the Department of Materials Science, University of Cambridge. Our aim is to promote the excitement and fun of science and engineering to primary schools children. Simple scientific concepts and principles are introduced using hands-on experiments based on National Curriculum Key Stage 2 Science and Technology.
  • The BBC have a webpage devoted to the Science of Materials that includes new items on material science and engineering research. The BBC also has a series of short clips relating to Materials and how they work:
  • BBC Science of Materials
  • BBC Materials: How They Work video clips
  • The Mineral Products Association have a number of online resources available for schools relating to the quarrying industry. Resources for KS1 to KS4 are available via a tour of a virtual quarry.
  • The School Science website contains a number of free resources which support the materials aspects of the various science curricula and others which support science in general. It is free to use.

Return back to our main page on research about our material world

Go back, to explore our science and technology in all its diverse fields: Large facilities - from giant telescopes, to lasers, supercomputers and the Large Hadron Collider - helping physicists, chemists and biologists to understand our world and the Universe beyond.

Last updated: 02 July 2019


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