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CHEM3004 Organic Materials Chemistry

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To provide an overview of the relationships between molecular or solid state structures and material properties. This is an interdisciplinary course which aims to provide an understanding of how molecular structure affects the properties of materials. The course consists of three sections: synthesis, analysis and properties. The use of design rules and advanced characterisation methods in the development of modern materials will be highlighted.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Draw correct mechanisms of polymer formation using specific monomer units and reagents, including stereoselectivity.
  • Recognise the monomer units from a given polymer structure.
  • Give appropriate reagents for further modification and processing.
  • Apply chemical knowledge to design materials with specific properties.
  • Predict the use of analytical methods to characterise specific materials and interpret the data in view of the material’s properties.
  • Show awareness of the impact of organic materials in society and environment.
  • Present research results formally and informally, individually or as a group.


Section 1: Introduction to Macromolecules Macromolecules are among the most versatile, and hence most widely used, materials. The objective of this part of the course is to introduce students to a selection of common polymers and their properties. Lectures will cover polymer classification, different types of 'common' polymers (e.g. polyethylene, polypropylene, PTFE; nylon), their synthesis, structure and selected physical properties (e.g. crystallisation, glass transition and stress-strain relationships). Also naturally occurring polymers and macromolecules that find applications as materials will be covered, together with their synthetic derivatisation. The history of liquid crystal (LC) discovery and their exploitation; classification: thermotropic or lyotropic, nematic (thread–like), Smectic (layered), columnar, chiral Nematic (cholesteric), calimitic (rod–shaped) or discotic (disc–shaped); molecular structural requirements with examples; representative syntheses; techniques: polarised optical microscopy (POM), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC); orientation: by electric field, by rubbed surfaces, by surfactants; applications: twisted nematic liquid crystal display (LCD), LC thermometers; LC polymers: main–chain e.g. Kevlar™, side–chain. Types of organic metals and semiconductors: charge–transfer salts, conjugated polymers, molecular crystals, band structure, solitons and bipolarons; electroluminescence: how an LED works; photovoltaic devices: the basic principles, dye–sensitised cells, polymer blend devices, controlling energy transfer and electron transfer. General characterisation techniques will be described, including NMR and IR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, chromatography, light scattering, thermal analysis and computational models. Highlights will also include societal issues arising from synthetic polymers such as environmental impact and recycling, and applications of societal importance such as microchip fabrication (including microfluidic systems), and medicinal applications (drug delivery, implants). A characterisation and synthesis workshop will be given, with examples taken from standard techniques. Section 2: Advanced Macromolecule Materials These lectures, intended to introduce students to some of the cutting-edge concepts in Organic Materials Chemistry, will cover a selection from the following topics: • Physical chemistry of polymers • Theoretical models of polymers • Self-healing polymers • Random and block copolymers • Biodegradable polymers and environmental issues • Supramolecular systems as future materials • Microchip fabrication • Smart materials with a focus on smart gels • Organic electronics in biology including issues of biocompatibility • Chemistry of synthetic photosynthetic centres Section 3: Web-based research and presentation workshops. Groups of 5-6 students will spend 2 hours in a computer suite researching specific types of speciality polymer then plan a presentation of their findings. Individual summary handouts (1 page) will be submitted by each student and assessed. Each group will give a 15 min. presentation describing the background, science details and Intellectual Property position on their type of polymer and assessed as a group.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, computer workshop, group presentation

Follow-up work40
Practical classes and workshops8
Preparation for scheduled sessions40
Completion of assessment task30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

J.M.G. Cowie, V. Arrighi. Polymers: Chemistry and Physics of modern materials. 

X. Chen, H. Fuchs. Soft Matter Nanotechnology. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 15%
Examination  (2 hours) 75%
Presentation 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: CHEM2001 AND CHEM2005 AND CHEM2012 AND CHEM2013

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