Interfaces Newsletter July 2020

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Welcome to Interfaces, the newsletter from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Every month, we’ll bring you news from the world of Materials, from us and elsewhere, and how discoveries made through the years affect our lives today.

This edition is briefer than usual, and the editorial team will be taking a break over the summer. Thank you for reading, enjoy any holidays you may be taking and see you again in September!

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The keys to the door – the Royce Discovery Centre

A new research centre that will transform how we discover new materials for industry and train the next generation of materials scientists has reached a key milestone in its construction at the University of Sheffield.

The outside of the Harry Brearley Building – home to the Royce Discovery Centre.

The Royce Discovery Centre, part of the Henry Royce Institute in Sheffield, will focus on early-stage, fundamental research into the discovery of new materials and processing.

With building work complete and the keys in our posession, work continues apace to get all the state-of-the-art equipment installed and commissioned.

Expected to be fully operational in 2021, the centre will feature state-of-the-art specialist laboratories and workshops, and will house the very latest technologies in 3D additive manufacturing, digital manufacturing and nanocharacterisation. 

The centre will be based in a new building – named after the renowned Sheffield metallurgist Harry Brearley. 

Despite the huge challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, construction has been completed on the Harry Brearley Building on Portobello Street – in the heart of the University of Sheffield’s campus.  

The facility will benefit from the very latest in world class equipment provided by the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, alongside specialist equipment already based at the University in its Department of Materials Science and Engineering. 

The centre will work alongside the Royce Translational Centre, based at the University of Sheffield Innovation District, to take these new research discoveries and work with companies to help apply them to their manufacturing challenges.

It will also work with the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering to train the next generation of materials scientists in order to bridge the UK’s skills gap in this area. 

The Royce Discovery Centre will harness equipment and expertise from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering – one of the UK’s most renowned teaching and research centres in materials science. 

The Henry Royce Institute in Sheffield champions sustainable manufacturing through resource efficiency, providing an environment where academics and industry can collaborate to address materials processing challenges. These collaborations create new engineering components for high performance industrial applications, generating new knowledge, translation into industry and impact.

Student surveys: Reasons to celebrate

July has seen the release of the results of the National Student Survey and the Graduate Outcomes Survey. Both have revealed a strong performance from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield.

The National Student Survey asks students who are in the final year of their undergraduate studies – in this case, those that graduated this year – for their views on key aspects of their University experience including learning and teaching, assessments and feedback, academic support, learning resources and the Students’ Union.

The Graduate Outcomes Survey contacts graduates to find out what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Therefore, the people surveyed in the 2019-20 survey all graduated in the academic year 2017-18.

In the 2020 National Student Survey, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering received the following responses (in the category of Materials Technology providers):

  • 95% or respondents said that overall, they were satisfied with the course (1st in the Russell Group)
  • 92% said that they were satisfied with the teaching on the course (1st in the UK)
  • 90% said that they were satisfied with the academic support provided (1st in the UK)
  • 87% said that the course provided good learning opportunities (1st in the Russell Group)

Meanwhile, The Graduate Outcomes Survey showed that of the Materials Science and Engineering students that graduated in 2017/18 (who responded to the survey) 100% of our MEng graduates, and 89% of our BEng graduates were in graduate level employment or further study.

This strong performance  from the Department isn’t unusual. In the NSS, we have averaged more than 93% overall satisfaction over  the past 4 years, and in the predecessor to the Graduate Outcomes Survey (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey, which was carried out six months after graduation, and last performed in 2018), more than 96% of our graduates had found employment or were in further study over the last four years of the survey when it was carried out.

Further to this, our strength in providing our students with skills much sought after by industry is reflected in the fact that we are the number one ranked Russell Group Institution for Graduate Prospects in Materials Science and Engineering in The Times Good University Guide 2020.

On top of this, the Faculty of Engineering has been recognised as number one in the Russell Group for overall student satisfaction.

Celebrating 40 years of the Quarrell Laboratory

It is home to many memorable experiences for undergraduates and significant scientific discoveries. The largest lab in the Sir Robert Hadfield Building was officially named the Quarrell Laboratory on 18 July 1980 after a former Head of Department.

This facility is an integral part of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, used across a range of teaching and research activities. At the present time, the lab is where the undergraduate aluminium casting, phase diagram and glass melting practical sessions take place and contains state-of-the-art additive manufacturing facilities which are used across both the Henry Royce Institute and MAPP (Manufacturing Using Advanced Powder Processing) Hub research centres.

There are also welding bays, a mini rolling mill, heat treatment furnaces and arc melting furnaces which are essential pieces of kit for many researchers within the department.

Professor Quarrell’s concept was that the Department should be able to make, shape and characterise any materials, and this was the major facility for making and shaping. When it was first opened, the lab contained a 1,000 ton quick acting press, which required significant foundations and access below the machine. This is one of the reasons that the ground floor of the Hadfield Building is denoted a C Floor, the other being that it is built into a hill.

The lab also contained heavy equipment needed for metal melting and casting, heat treatment and mechanical working, including a thixoforming press, which was the only one of its kind in the UK, supporting research in Semi-Solid Processing of High Melting Point alloys and composites. In the basement, creep and fatigue testing facilities were located.

The Quarrell Laboratory is named after Professor Arthur G Quarrell, who was Chair of Metallurgy and Head of the Department of Metallurgy at the University of Sheffield from 1955, having been Acting Head since 1950. As such, he was Head of Department when the Sir Robert Hadfield Building was opened. He held this position until 1969, eventually retiring in 1976.

Professor Arthur G Quarrell (third from right)

Quarrell was influential in the development of Metallurgy teaching and research at the University of Sheffield. He had foreseen the need for accelerating the understanding and development of metals and alloys, well beyond the capability of existing University buildings, for improvements in materials’ production and refinement to tailor their properties to withstand new and demanding conditions that included those arising in aerospace, frames and jet engines, nuclear power, pipelines for transportation of fuels, large structures and, at the other end of the scale, almost defect-free, ultra-pure single crystals for electronic devices.

He therefore introduced a significant amount of then state-of-the-art technology into the laboratories so that students and researchers could work at the cutting edge of the discipline and develop the world-leading reputation that the Department deserved.

The Quarrell Laboratory was opened on 18 July 1980 to recognise the contribution that Professor Quarrell made to the development of the Department. This 40th Anniversary coincides with the Department taking ownership of the new Royce Discovery Centre, which, like the Quarrell Laboratory, will extend the capabilities of the Department and keep it at the forefront of materials research and development.

2nd-year students benefit from Royce Internships

In this period of lockdown it has been challenging to provide our usual offering of summer internships to 2nd year students.

However, thanks to the Henry Royce Institute and Corinne Howse we have been able to award five students the chance to work with some of our leading academics and Post Doctorate researchers in an online environment on research projects that centre around advanced materials and modelling.

Lauren Levine, Lucy Ellwood, Karol Murgrabia, Joshua Peters and Alexander Whyte will be working alongside our staff to conduct research in areas such as Alloys for High Temperature Turbine Blades and Field Assisted Sintering Technology.

It was a particularly competitive field of applicants so we congratulate the students on their success and look forward to hearing of the outcomes.

Graduation 2020

This year, we haven’t been unable to hold our usual Graduation celebration. However, we wanted to mark the fantastic achievements of this year’s graduates, so this week we held a virtual event to recognise their successes.

We want to say a big congratulations to all of our students graduating this year. It’s been a challenging conclusion to their time as undergraduates in the Department, and we haven’t been able to give them the send-off we hoped for.

We wish you all the very best for whatever the future holds for you. Don’t forget to stay in touch and let us know how you are getting on. Sign up to the newsletter, follow us on social media and join the Alumni group on LinkedIn.

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