Bypass Chapter Navigation
Contents  
Foreword by Walter Cronkite  
Introduction - The National Science Foundation at 50: Where Discoveries Begin, by Rita Colwell  
Internet: Changing the Way we Communicate  
Advanced Materials: The Stuff Dreams are Made of
Education: Lessons about Learning  
Manufacturing: The Forms of Things Unknown  
Arabidopsis: Map-makers of the Plant Kingdom  
Decision Sciences: How the Game is Played  
Visualization: A Way to See the Unseen  
Environment: Taking the Long View  
Astronomy: Exploring the Expanding Universe  
Science on the Edge: Arctic and Antarctic Discoveries  
Disaster & Hazard Mitigation  
About the Photographs  
Acknowledgments  
About the NSF  
Chapter Index  
Advanced Materials: The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
 

From Craft to Science in Two Centuries

It may seem hard to believe, but it has been only in the last 200 years that we humans have understood elemental science well enough and had the instrumentation necessary to go beyond fabrication—taking a material more or less in its raw form and making something out of it. Once we began to explore the basic structure and properties of materials, a wealth of discoveries ensued:

  • Ceramics with distinctive electrical properties that make it possible to miniaturize wireless communications devices ranging from cellular telephones to global positioning technologies.

  • A totally new family of materials called organic metals: conductive polymers (compounds assembled like chains, with numerous units linked together to form a whole) that are soluble, can be processed, and whose potential applications include "smart" window coatings with optical and transparency properties that can be changed electrically.

  • An optic layer that fits over liquid crystal displays to maintain high contrast even when the display is viewed from an angle—now used in instrument panels of military and commercial aircraft.

  • Nonlinear optical crystals of lithium niobate, a unique combination of materials that is ideal for many laser applications.

  • Artificial skin that bonds to human tissue so successfully that many burn victims now heal with a fraction of the scarring that once was considered inevitable.

NSF-funded research played a pivotal role in all of these and many other innovations. Through support of individual researchers and multidisciplinary centers around the country, NSF is fueling a vast number of diverse projects in materials science and engineering. Undertaken for the purpose of advancing knowledge, many materials sciences projects also have industry co-sponsors who eagerly anticipate commercialization of the results.

 
     
PDF Version
Overview
From Craft to Science in Two Centuries
A Never-Ending Search for the New and Useful
Triumphs in Everyday Life
Designer Molecules Reach New Heights
The Healing Arts Embrace Materials Science
Materieals for a Small Planet
Tomorrow's Materials: Lighter, Tougher, Faster
To Learn More …
 

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