What is Materials Science?

World of Materials
The world around us is made up of Materials. Everything you use throughout the day: the iPod you listen to, the computer you work on, the shoes you walk in, even the food you eat. Materials Science is an interdisciplinary field at the crossroads of the natural sciences and engineering that seeks to understand this stuff, engineer new types of stuff and even improve the quality of stuff.

Categories of Materials
Materials can be natural, like wood, or human-made, like plastic. There are over 300,000 different materials. As materials scientists create and combine materials in new ways, the number is almost infinite.

  • Metals – engines, buildings, airplanes. trains.
  • Ceramics – glass, fiber optics, furnace.
  • Semiconductors – computer chips in mobile devices.
  • Polymers – plastics, Gore-Tex, Plexiglas.
  • Composites – steel, carbon-fiber bicycle.
  • Biomaterials – materials part of a living being, i.e, skin.
  • New Materials – aerogels, carbon nanotubes, graphine.

What do Materials Scientists do?

  • Determine the structure of materials.
  • Measure properties of materials.
  • Devise ways of processing materials, i.e., creating materials, transforming existing materials, and making useful things out of them.
  • Think about how a material is suited to the purpose it serves already and how it can be enhanced to give better performance.

DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know you could make a solar cell out of toothpaste and berries? Or that you could make a battery out of your loose change?

photo of dye-sensitized solar cell Dye-sensitized solar cell