Insegnamento a.a. 2023-2024


Cross-institutional study L. Bocconi - Politecnico Milano

Course taught in English

Class timetable
Exam timetable
Go to class group/s: 26
TS (6 credits - II sem. - OB  |  ING-IND/22)
Course Director:

Classes: 26 (II sem.)

Synchronous Blended: Lezioni erogate in modalità sincrona in aula (max 1 ora per credito online sincrona)

Mission & Content Summary


The course has the ambition to develop student’s understanding of the materials panorama in the 21st century. The course pays specific attention to the role materials and their resources play in the sustainability challenges that industries have to face in the next decades. To this purpose, the course tries to provide a step-by-step guidance on sustainability and circularity criteria applied to materials within the frame of the EU’s circular economy action plan. The interplay between enabling technologies and materials supply chain is the background to build up a materials industry able to face the challenges posed by EU targets in terms of decarbonization, depollution and raw materials saving.


The course is structured into three main parts:


Part 1 introduces the fundamentals of materials science and engineering, necessary to have a common language and a robust understanding of the properties and features of materials. Topics to be touched upon in this first part of the course are:

  • Materials classification under different criteria: composition, properties and uses. Historical evolution of materials.
  • Production and processing of main materials groups: metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, fibres and textiles.
  • Selection criteria of materials for product design.


Part 2 is devoted to understanding the materials life cycle and their role in circularity. The relevant topics are here summarized:

  • Renewable and non-renewable materials stocks; primary and secondary sources, biological and technological materials cycles.
  • Recycling processes of materials, downgrading and upgrading of properties. Industrial symbiosis.


Part 3 focus on the development of qualitative and quantitative metrics for sustainability and circularity assessment:

  • Circularity criteria in materials manufacturing: recycled content and recyclability; handprint versus footprint; material efficiency, product longevity, scarcity. Re-use, repurpose and energy recovery.
  • Circularity and sustainability assessment of materials: material flow analysis and life cycle thinking; life cycle sustainability assessment and circularity assessment of materials. Circular economy indicators and LCA

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Understand basics of materials science and technology as well as the fundamentals of the technical language
  • Understand the opportunities offered by new technologies and industrial processes in the materials sector
  • Identify the most critical aspects in circular business models and ecosystems within the industrial materials sectors


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Evaluate the main technological advances in processes and materials that enable and support circular business, production and consumption models
  • Recognize the main technologies that enable the reduction of waste to a minimum and its reuse to create further value
  • Recognize threats and opportunities brought by circular economy in the specific field of materials production
  • sketch out processes that integrate production, reuse or recycle of products with the minimum loss of materials and resources.
  • Plan supply chains that integrate symbiotic industries and that interact constructively towards circular economy in the industrial materials sectors

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Interactive class activities (role playing, business game, simulation, online forum, instant polls)


  • Face-to-face lectures will be devoted to theoretical topics and fundamental concepts, while cases will be discussed in interactive class activities to identify theoretical concepts from real-life situations. Students are expected to read the assigned materials before the in-class sessions to engage in an active discussion.
  • Other interactive class activities will exploit the use of a dedicated software (Granta EduPack) to design and select materials for specific products
  • We expect to have guest speakers who will deliver a direct experience on the main issues they faced when dealing with circularity and sustainability.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)


To obtain the attending status, students will be required to form groups to discuss cases and actively participate in the in-class activities.

In order to achieve the learning outcomes and measure their acquisition by students not only is attendance recommended, but class interaction and participation are evaluated.

  • Students are expected to read the assigned material for each topic before class and participate actively in the discussion. This aims to test the student’s ability to interact and think critically, applying the concepts presented throughout the course. Moreover, each student will be required to give a short account about the specific case study during in-class activities and to engage the whole classroom.
  • Class participation accounts for 20% of the final grade.
  • To assess the ability of designing new products within the circular economy frame, a number of simulation projects will be launched that will involve students in groups throughout the course. In the last session, each group’s project will be discussed and evaluated.
  • The project accounts for 30% of the final grade.
  • To test the understanding of theoretical concepts about materials science, new technologies, circularity and sustainability assessment students will take a written exam at the end of the course that accounts for 50% of the final grade.


  • Non attending students will replace the group project with an additional requirement during the written exam aimed at verifying in simplified way the product design and materials selection understanding.
  • The class participation activities will be replaced by the submission of two short reports on two case studies chosen among those offered over the course.


Teaching materials


  • Course Slides.
  • Collection of articles.
  • Class handouts, material distributed.
  • Personal class notes.
  • Other material will be assigned at course inception.


All articles and slides supplied to attending students will made available online for not attending students as well.


  • Course Slides.

Collection of articles.

All articles and slides supplied to attending students will be available online for not attending students as well.


Reference textbooks available in Politecnico library:

  • Ashby, Michael F.. Materials and the Environment : Eco-Informed Material Choice, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2012. 
  • Ashby, Michael F.. Materials and Sustainable Development, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2015. 


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