Programme And Module Handbook
Course Details in 2025/26 Session

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Module Title LM Advanced Sustainable Polymeric and Advanced Molecular Materials
Department Chemistry
Module Code 03 32177
Module Lead Dr John Snaith
Level Masters Level
Credits 10
Semester Semester 2
Restrictions None
Contact Hours Lecture-20 hours
Guided independent study-180 hours
Total: 200 hours
Description The first part of this module explores degradable polymeric materials. The ability of polymers to entangle bestows them with properties that provide their strength, flexibility and durability. These properties also present the critical paradox of the plastic problem, we can’t have durable materials that degrade - they just wouldn’t do what we wanted them to do. Understanding the landscape of sustainable polymeric materials is critical as a first step to addressing this challenge. The way in which the leading degradable materials in this class are accessed as well as the considerations that need to be taken into account to modify these for a wider range of applications will be addressed. This module will also discuss applications in which the degradability of materials is keenly desired, including how degradable polymers are used as biomaterials in medical devices. The module will develop fundamental understanding of the chemistry that underpins these advances as well to consider more application-focussed research at the state-of-the-art.

In the second part of the module organic molecular materials will be examined. The applications of organic molecules are traditionally associated with drugs. However, the past half a century has seen a great deal of research into the physics of organic molecular materials, which has seen them develop into highly sophisticated structures with extraordinary properties.

Thus, organic molecular materials have been:
1. isotropically aligned by electric fields;
2. electrically excited to emit photons, and
3. photo-excited enabling charge to move through them.

These types of phenomena have seen organic materials incorporated into liquid crystal displays, light emitting diodes and photovoltaic devices. In addition, organic molecules are finding uses as resists in the lithographic processes, which facilitates the ever decreasing size and increasing power of our phones, tablets and computers. In 2016 the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the pioneers of molecular machines, one of whom was Sir Fraser Stoddart, FRS, who did much of the innovation here at Birmingham in the Haworth building.

This course will look at the development of organic materials from the basic science to how this led to their incorporation into the technologies of today and how they may be used in the technologies of tomorrow.
Learning Outcomes By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • Understand the thermodynamic principles of ring-opening polymerisation;
  • Design synthetic routes to functional polymers by ring-opening polymerisation using the fundamental principles learnt;
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of the catalytic routes to these materials;
  • Display a mechanistic understanding of how different catalysts can be used to produce polymers by ring-opening polymerisation;
  • Understand the applicability and materials requirements of degradable polymers across bulk and commodity application including in medicine;
  • Understand how molecular ordering can be induced by electric fields and how this is utilised in applications;
  • Explain how fluorescence manifests itself in organic materials and how it is utilised in applications;
  • Understand how molecular conduction manifests itself in organic materials and how it is utilised in applications;
  • Recognise how organic molecules are used in the all-pervasive lithography process, which creates every transistor in every electronic device we use today;
  • Recognise what a molecular machine is and how they might be the basis of technologies of tomorrow.
Assessment 32177-01 : Module Assessment : Exam (Centrally Timetabled) - Written Unseen (100%)
Assessment Methods & Exceptions Worksheets (20%) and exam (80%)
Reading List