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Department of Materials

Award-winning outreach inspires young people

Our award winning outreach activities inspire the next generation of engineers. We take students on a virtual journey through a jet engine and challenge them to design their own. Hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed this programme – winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering Nexia Solutions Education Innovation Prize for 2007.

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Educational visits

50,000 educational visits to the Museum of Science and Industry in 2009.

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82% of pupils who took part in 'Design a Jet Engine' would recommend a career in manufacturing and engineering to a friend.

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Stand visitors

12,000 visitors to our stand at six air shows.

Engineering is crucial to the UK’s economy: it generates a quarter of UK corporate turnover and accounts for one fifth of GDP. However, there is a shortage of engineering graduates and a general lack of enthusiasm for science subjects among young people.

We have developed a set of interactive activities around jet engine design to showcase our research activities and spark students’ interest in science.

We have collaborated with Rolls-Royce, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), the Manufacturing Institute, North West Aerospace Alliance and the Northwest Regional Development Agency to engage with thousands of school children, teachers and parents.

RAE recognised our outreach efforts and award us the Nexia Solutions Education Innovation prize 2007, also selecting our work for its exhibition. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) also used our work as an example of good outreach practice.

News items:

"Make It in Manufacturing"

We have participated in The Manufacturing Institute's 'Make It in Manufacturing' campaign to inspire teenagers and dispel the negative public image of the manufacturing and engineering sectors.

A 2009 careers event at the Reebok Stadium, Bolton, saw 2,250 pupils participate in our 'Design a Jet Engine' activity. The outreach proved to be a success: 70% of students wanted to know more about careers in manufacturing and engineering and 82% said they would recommend a career in this sector to friends.

Museum of Science and Industry

Our popular exhibition ‘How to Design a Jet Engine’ is on permanent display at the Air and Space Gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry which has 600,000 visitors annually.

The popular exhibit has acted as a focal point for three ‘Meet the Engineer’ family days, attracting some 500 visitors, and a debate about the environment for 40 Year 9-11 pupils.

Broad outreach

We have also directly engaged 1,500 students and 200 teachers through our participation in school events as part of Manchester Science Festival. Our presence at large scale events – including six air shows, the Big Bang Fair and two science shows at Wrexham Science Festival – has engaged 26,000 members of the public.

See also:

  • Find out how a modern jet engine works in Rolls-Royce's time-lapse film 'Journey through a jet engine' – its key sections, the materials used, how it is manufactured and some of the science behind how it works.


The Department of Materials has extensive research expertise in the analysis and development of aero-engine materials, focusing on the characterisation of residual stress and damage.

This work is supported by the Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility which contains seven X-ray scanners, the widest range of laboratory CT systems in the UK. The facility is specially designed for in situ imaging of engineering materials and components across a wide range of environments, timescales and length scales.

Key research findings and industrial developments:

  • Characterisation of the steep microstructural gradients and residual stresses caused by inertia rotational welding
  • First ever measurement of the residual stresses and effects of crystal orientation on weldability and microstructural evolution in single crystal blades
  • High resolution sub-surface mapping of residual stress by synchrotron diffraction
  • Laser peening produces stresses deep into blade roots
  • 3D imaging of oxide growth at material interfaces which creates flaws and ultimate deterioration of protective coats


  • Joint Infrastructure Fund

List of references

  • M. Preuss, J. Pang, P.J. Withers and G.J. Baxter (2002) "Inertia Welding Nickel-based Superalloy. Part I: Metallurgical Development" Metallurgical and Materials Transactions 33A:3215-25 doi:10.1007/s11661-002-0307-y
  • M. Karadge, M. Preuss, P.J. Withers and S. Bray (2008) "Importance of Crystal Orientation in Linear Friction Joining of Single Crystal to Polycrystalline Nickel-Based Superalloys" Materials Science and Engineering A 491:446-453 doi:10.1016/j.msea.2008.04.064
  • A. King, A. Steuwer, C. Woodward and P.J. Withers (2006) "Effects of Fatigue and Fretting on Residual Stresses Introduced by Laser Shock Peening" Materials Science and Engineering 435(6):12-18 doi:10.1016/j.msea.2006.07.020