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The interdisciplinarity field of materials science, also commonly termed materials science and engineering, involves the discovery and design of new materials, with an emphasis on solids. The intellectual origins of materials science stem from the Enlightenment, when researchers began to use analytical thinking from chemistry, physics, and engineering to understand ancient, phenomenological observations in metallurgy and mineralogy. Materials science still incorporates elements of physics, chemistry, and engineering. As such, the field was long considered by academic institutions as a sub-field of these related fields. Beginning in the 1940s, materials science began to be more widely recognized as a specific and distinct field of science and engineering, and major technical universities around the world created dedicated schools of the study.
Many of the most pressing scientific problems humans currently face are due to the limits of the materials that are available. Thus, breakthroughs in materials science are likely to affect the future of technology significantly.
Materials scientists emphasize understanding how the history of a material (its processing) influences its structure, and thus the material's properties and performance. The understanding of processing-structure-properties relationships is called the § materials paradigm. This paradigm is used to advance understanding in a variety of research areas, including nanotechnology, biomaterials, and metallurgy. Materials science is also an important part of forensic engineering and failure analysis - investigating materials, products, structures or components which fail or which do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. Such investigations are key to understanding, for example, the causes of various aviation accidents and incidents.
The material of choice of a given era is often a defining point. Phrases such as Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Steel Age are great examples. Originally deriving from the manufacture of ceramics and its putative derivative metallurgy, materials science is one of the oldest forms of engineering and applied science. Modern materials science evolved directly from metallurgy, which itself evolved from mining and (likely) ceramics and the use of fire. A major breakthrough in the understanding of materials occurred in the late 19th century, when the American scientist Josiah Willard Gibbs demonstrated that the thermodynamic properties related to atomic structure in various phases are related to the physical properties of a material. Important elements of modern materials science are a product of the space race: the understanding and engineering of the metallic alloys, and silica and carbon materials, used in building space vehicles enabling the exploration of space. Materials science has driven, and been driven by, the development of revolutionary technologies such as rubbers, plastics, semiconductors, and biomaterials.
|Emerging technology||Status||Potentially marginalized technologies||Potential applications||Related articles|
|Aerogel||Hypothetical, experiments, diffusion, early uses||Traditional insulation, glass||Improved insulation, insulative glass if it can be made clear, sleeves for oil pipelines, aerospace, high-heat & extreme cold applications|
|Conductive polymers||Research, experiments, prototypes||Conductors||Lighter and cheaper wires, antistatic materials, organic solar cells|
|Femtotechnology, picotechnology||Hypothetical||Present nuclear||New materials; nuclear weapons, power|
|Fullerene||Experiments, diffusion||Synthetic diamond and carbon nanotubes (e.g., Buckypaper)||Programmable matter|
|Graphene||Hypothetical, experiments, diffusion, early uses||Silicon-based integrated circuit||Components with higher strength to weight ratios, transistors that operate at higher frequency, lower cost of display screens in mobile devices, storing hydrogen for fuel cell powered cars, filtration systems, longer-lasting and faster-charging batteries, sensors to diagnose diseases||Potential applications of graphene|
|High-temperature superconductivity||Cryogenic receiver front-end (CRFE) RF and microwave filter systems for mobile phone base stations; prototypes in dry ice; Hypothetical and experiments for higher temperatures||Copper wire, semiconductor integral circuits||No loss conductors, frictionless bearings, magnetic levitation, lossless high-capacity accumulators, electric cars, heat-free integral circuits and processors|
|LiTraCon||Experiments, already used to make Europe Gate||Glass||Building skyscrapers, towers, and sculptures like Europe Gate|
|Metamaterials||Hypothetical, experiments, diffusion||Classical optics||Microscopes, cameras, metamaterial cloaking, cloaking devices|
|Metal foam||Research, commercialization||Hulls||Space colonies, floating cities|
|Multi-function structures||Hypothetical, experiments, some prototypes, few commercial||Composite materials mostly||Wide range, e.g., self health monitoring, self healing material, morphing, ...|
|Nanomaterials: carbon nanotubes||Hypothetical, experiments, diffusion, early uses||Structural steel and aluminium||Stronger, lighter materials, space elevator||Potential applications of carbon nanotubes, carbon fiber|
|Programmable matter||Hypothetical, experiments||Coatings, catalysts||Wide range, e.g., claytronics, synthetic biology|
|Quantum dots||Research, experiments, prototypes||LCD, LED||Quantum dot laser, future use as programmable matter in display technologies (TV, projection), optical data communications (high-speed data transmission), medicine (laser scalpel)|
|Silicene||Hypothetical, research||Field-effect transistors|
|Superalloy||Research, diffusion||Aluminum, titanium, composite materials||Aircraft jet engines|
|Synthetic diamond||early uses (drill bits, jewelry)||Silicon transistors||Electronics|
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