MRes in Soft Electronic Materials
If you have any questions please email the MRes programme coordinator, Lisa O'Donnell.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your application
Applications for this course are still open.
The start dates of our courses have not changed as a result of COVID-19 and are scheduled to start as advertised.
We remain committed to delivering the highest quality education, so you can be assured that – whether the course starts on campus, online or through blended learning – we have the technology, the expertise and committed staff who are ready to offer you a first-class educational experience that will inspire you. You can read more about this on our website.
The MRes in Soft Electronic Materials is a research focussed Masters programme. It is an interdisciplinary course lasting one year focused on creating and optimising new types of electronic materials and devices for a diverse range of applications, it covers all three research theme areas of the CPE, sustainable energy, soft electronic materials and emerging technologies.
This thriving area of research targets applications such as:
- Printable photovoltaics
- Light-emitting diodes
- Solar fuel production
- Wearable electronics devices
- Chiral emitters and detector
- Neuromorphic computing
A key attraction of the field is that the materials can often be deposited from solutions enabling devices to be fabricated using printing technologies rather than traditional semiconductor fabrication techniques.
You will cover highly multidisciplinary science during the course. It involves Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. Research activities are wide-ranging, spanning fundamental modelling of molecules and materials, their synthesis, characterisation, design and processing of devices and sensors, as well as measuring and analysing their performance for targeted applications.
We’re looking talented and enthusiastic students from diverse scientific and engineering backgrounds.
The 12-month course is comprised of lectures and advanced skills training, and a substantial independent research project. The lectures take place during the first term and cover the fundamentals of organic and inorganic semiconductors, material synthesis and processing, materials characterisation, as well as device physics and applications. The bulk of the course comprises an independent research project. This will involve cutting edge research which can range from theoretical to highly applied. It will culminate in the preparation of a thesis.
Please email Lisa O'Donnell, the MRes programme co-ordinator for details of October 2022 MRes entry.
Course outline in more detail
Core lecture courses
The course begins in Term 1 (October-December) with a fixed lecture programme of core courses, in adition to advanced practical courses that will continue through the year. All core lecture modules are compulsory. The material covered in these courses is examined in February.
There are two core lecture courses in Term 1:
Fundamentals of Organic and Inorganic Semiconductors and Materials Synthesis and Processing
This module will refresh the basic properties of semiconducting materials, highlighting the key similarities and differences between electronic behaviour in organic and inorganic materials. It will cover the physics of the electronic structure of pi-conjugated materials and their neutral, excited and charged states (excitons, polarons), their optical properties (absorption, emission, gain), photophysical processes, photochemistry, charge and exciton transport. This will include an introduction to the techniques used to model the electrical and optical properties of molecular materials. Aspects of other material properties such as ferroelectricity, thermoelectricity and magnetism will be introduced.
The second half of the module will cover the preparation and deposition of electroactive materials including the organic, inorganic and hybrid components used in plastic electronic devices. Such electroactive materials will include small molecular charge transport materials, sensitising dyes used in solar cells, fluorescent and phosphorescent materials as well as electroactive polymers. The key concepts of conjugation, synthesis (e.g. by Suzuki or Yamamoto coupling, living polymerisations by McCullough route) and relevant characterisation (e.g. by spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, elemental analysis, GPC, cyclic voltametry) will underpin the organic components of the module which should enable students to select molecules for specific (opto)electronic applications and to suggest functionalisation (i.e. fluorination etc.) that will optimise their physical properties. Methods to chemically and physically deposit layers of inorganic and hybrid materials such as transparent oxides, metal sulphides and solution-processable perovskites will also be considered. The key kinetic and thermodynamic concepts underlying the control of morphology, crystallisation, phase behaviour, and processing of single and multi-component systems used in devices will also be covered.
Materials Characterisation and Device Physics and Applications
In conjunction with the Materials and Processing module, this part of the course will introduce materials characterisation techniques relevant to assessing the microstructure and surface/interface properties of relevant electroactive materials including microscopy, X-ray diffraction, rheology and thermal analysis (including degradation). The module will also introduce steady-state and time-resolved spectroscopic techniques suitable for interrogating structural properties, excited states, and charge carriers in electroactive materials. Knowledge of these techniques should provide students with a platform to start tackling the practical problems they will encounter during their projects.
The module will also cover the basic principles of operation and design and molecular and hybrid light emitting devices, solar cells, photodiodes, thin film transistors, polymer lasers, gain media, lighting and displays. Emerging devices classes will also be introduced including spintronic and bioelectronics devices. The module will also introduce device fabrication (including encapsulation) and device engineering for maximum performance and lifetime. Methods to evaluate and assess device performance and bottlenecks will be covered (e.g. solar cell operating efficiency, transistor transfer curves). This understanding will provide students with approaches to diagnose and rectify problems in their device designs.
Advanced and practical courses
Selected advanced practical courses and workshops could be offered throughout the year to MRes students, which include:
Organic thin film and optoelectronic device fabrication & characterisation (Imperial College, Physics)
This week long course includes lectures and practical training. The lectures cover the theory and practical issues of thin film characteristics and device fabrication, and opto-electronic measurements. The practical training will focus on how to measure the optical properties of thin film samples correctly using a variety of techniques.
OPV device fabrication (Imperial College, Chemistry)
This three-day practical training will cover all steps in the fabrication and testing of lab-scale light-emitting diodes, photodiodes and OFETs in a clean room environment. The course includes substrate preparation, spin coating of organic layers, contact evaporation and encapsulation, followed by opto-electrical measurement.
The workshops will focus on four main areas:
- Molecular modelling
- Optical and electronic properties of materials
- Device physics
- Material structure and dynamics
The workshops will introduce students to some of the range of computational packages available for the simulation of molecular materials, including the elements of quantum chemistry calculations using Gaussian and Turbomole, molecular dynamics packages such as GROMACS, and packages for the visualisation and rendering of molecular structures. Training will consist of short lectures followed by problem solving sessions with demonstrator help available.
Transferable skills courses
The Graduate School
Offers courses supporting the postgraduate student experience:
- View masters level courses >>
- View doctoral level courses >>
Journal Club meetings will take place during the autumn term. This is a transferable skills course, which aims to develop presentation skills, whilst encouraging scientific debate, and providing the opportunity to broaden scientific knowledge. At each meeting students will discuss a seminal high impact paper that is circulated prior to the meeting. The session is chaired by the Journal Club tutor. A student-led Journal Club will begin in the spring term.
MRes students could be offered a taught outreach course. Students could receive both group and individual training on techniques and preparation to publicise and present scientific work to non-specialist audiences. These outreach activities are designed to instil important communication skills for students to draw upon throughout their careers. Outreach activities by students are strongly encouraged and supported; students are encouraged to participate in the Imperial Festival and other public engagement events. Find out more about the Outreach course.
Science Communication Training
MRes students took part in Science Communication training to hone their presentation skills ahead of their mid-project review presentations in June and their final MRes presentations in September. The course covered: Preparing to deliver your key message, Storytelling skills, including structuring and characterisation, Presentation skills (online and in-person), Use of language and Practice tailoring to different audiences
Students will be expected to select a project proposal in the first term following discussion with potential supervisors.
Example projects that have previously been offered to students are available via https://www.imperial.ac.uk/plastic-electronics-cdt/mres-in-soft-electronic-materials/projects/self-funded-projects/.