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Unit information: Nature's Materials in 2021/22

Unit name Nature's Materials
Unit code AENGM0044
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Trask
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce a wide range of solutions and principles found in nature, e.g. biological ceramic, polymer, elastomeric and cellular materials, nature's approach to building with fibres, attachment methods in nature, structural adaptivity and functional biological materials. The unit will be delivered from a materials science perspective with particular emphasis on the application of these methodologies to advanced fibre reinforced polymer composites. The specialist knowledge and understanding gained through this unit will provide the students with a good foundation for further research in this field.

The aim of this unit is to:

  • Provide the students with an overview of the structure-function relationship of natural materials as a model for the development of new types of high-performance engineering materials.
  • Introduce a range of composites materials that can be found or are inspired by nature, or that make use of naturally occurring components to enhance their functionality.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the unit students will be able to:

  1. Provide a clear overview of the diverse range of nature's materials, their complex hierarchical structure and describe their unique engineering properties.
  2. Synthesis and critically compare engineering and nature's solution to the structural design of composites materials through self-direction and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  3. Extend their current understanding by communicating the future technical challenges in the design and manufacture of biologically inspired composite materials and structures.

The learning outcomes align to the UK-SPEC A1, A2 and B1 (Engineering Council -

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, which may include lectures, seminars, journal club supported by drop-in question-and-answer sessions, one-2-one critical friend meetings with the Unit Director in preparation for the individual written assessment, and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Information

Specialist Written Assignment on chosen topic (100%) (ILO 1-3)

  • This is written as a journal style report
  • This will highlight the students’ ability to synthesis and critically compare nature's structure-function relationships with engineering principles and concepts as a model for the development of new types of high performance composite materials


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. AENGM0044).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.