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The interdisciplinary field of materials science , also commonly termed materials science and engineering , is the design and discovery of new materials, particularly 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.
As such, the field was long considered by academic institutions as a sub-field of these related fields. Beginning in the s, 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 for its study.
Many of the most pressing scientific problems humans currently face are due to the limits of the materials that are available and how they are used. 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.
This paradigm is used to advance understanding in a variety of research areas, including nanotechnology , biomaterials , and metallurgy. 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. 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 earlier from 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 were products 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. Before the s and in some cases decades after , many eventual materials science departments were metallurgy or ceramics engineering departments, reflecting the 19th and early 20th century emphasis on metals and ceramics.
The growth of materials science in the United States was catalyzed in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency , which funded a series of university-hosted laboratories in the early s "to expand the national program of basic research and training in the materials sciences.
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The prominent change in materials science during the recent decades is active usage of computer simulations to find new materials, predict properties, and understand phenomena. A material is defined as a substance most often a solid, but other condensed phases can be included that is intended to be used for certain applications.
Materials can generally be further divided into two classes: crystalline and non-crystalline. The traditional examples of materials are metals , semiconductors , ceramics and polymers. The basis of materials science involves studying the structure of materials, and relating them to their properties.
Once a materials scientist knows about this structure-property correlation, they can then go on to study the relative performance of a material in a given application. The major determinants of the structure of a material and thus of its properties are its constituent chemical elements and the way in which it has been processed into its final form.
These characteristics, taken together and related through the laws of thermodynamics and kinetics , govern a material's microstructure , and thus its properties. As mentioned above, structure is one of the most important components of the field of materials science. Materials science examines the structure of materials from the atomic scale, all the way up to the macro scale.
Characterization is the way materials scientists examine the structure of a material. This involves methods such as diffraction with X-rays , electrons , or neutrons , and various forms of spectroscopy and chemical analysis such as Raman spectroscopy , energy-dispersive spectroscopy EDS , chromatography , thermal analysis , electron microscope analysis, etc. Structure is studied at various levels, as detailed below.
This deals with the atoms of the materials, and how they are arranged to give molecules, crystals, etc. Much of the electrical, magnetic and chemical properties of materials arise from this level of structure.
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The chemical bonding and atomic arrangement crystallography are fundamental to studying the properties and behavior of any material. To obtain a full understanding of the material structure and how it relates to its properties, the materials scientist must study how the different atoms, ions and molecules are arranged and bonded to each other.
This involves the study and use of quantum chemistry or quantum physics. Solid-state physics , solid-state chemistry and physical chemistry are also involved in the study of bonding and structure. Crystallography is the science that examines the arrangement of atoms in crystalline solids.
Crystallography is a useful tool for materials scientists. In single crystals, the effects of the crystalline arrangement of atoms is often easy to see macroscopically, because the natural shapes of crystals reflect the atomic structure. Further, physical properties are often controlled by crystalline defects.
The understanding of crystal structures is an important prerequisite for understanding crystallographic defects.
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Mostly, materials do not occur as a single crystal, but in polycrystalline form, i. Because of this, the powder diffraction method, which uses diffraction patterns of polycrystalline samples with a large number of crystals, plays an important role in structural determination.
Most materials have a crystalline structure, but some important materials do not exhibit regular crystal structure. Polymers display varying degrees of crystallinity, and many are completely noncrystalline.
Glass , some ceramics, and many natural materials are amorphous , not possessing any long-range order in their atomic arrangements. The study of polymers combines elements of chemical and statistical thermodynamics to give thermodynamic and mechanical, descriptions of physical properties.
This causes many interesting electrical, magnetic, optical, and mechanical properties.
In describing nanostructures it is necessary to differentiate between the number of dimensions on the nanoscale. Nanotextured surfaces have one dimension on the nanoscale, i. Nanotubes have two dimensions on the nanoscale, i. Finally, spherical nanoparticles have three dimensions on the nanoscale, i. The terms nanoparticles and ultrafine particles UFP often are used synonymously although UFP can reach into the micrometre range.
The term 'nanostructure' is often used when referring to magnetic technology. Nanoscale structure in biology is often called ultrastructure. Materials which atoms and molecules form constituents in the nanoscale i. Nanomaterials are subject of intense research in the materials science community due to the unique properties that they exhibit. Most of the traditional materials such as metals and ceramics are microstructured. The manufacture of a perfect crystal of a material is physically impossible.
For example, any crystalline material will contain defects such as precipitates , grain boundaries Hall—Petch relationship , vacancies, interstitial atoms or substitutional atoms. The microstructure of materials reveals these larger defects, so that they can be studied, with significant advances in simulation resulting in exponentially increasing understanding of how defects can be used to enhance material properties.
Macrostructure is the appearance of a material in the scale millimeters to meters—it is the structure of the material as seen with the naked eye. Synthesis and processing involves the creation of a material with the desired micro-nanostructure. From an engineering standpoint, a material cannot be used in industry if no economical production method for it has been developed.
Thus, the processing of materials is vital to the field of materials science. Different materials require different processing or synthesis methods.
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For example, the processing of metals has historically been very important and is studied under the branch of materials science named physical metallurgy. Also, chemical and physical methods are also used to synthesize other materials such as polymers , ceramics , thin films , etc. As of the early 21st century, new methods are being developed to synthesize nanomaterials such as graphene. Thermodynamics is concerned with heat and temperature and their relation to energy and work.
It defines macroscopic variables, such as internal energy , entropy , and pressure , that partly describe a body of matter or radiation. It states that the behavior of those variables is subject to general constraints common to all materials. These general constraints are expressed in the four laws of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics describes the bulk behavior of the body, not the microscopic behaviors of the very large numbers of its microscopic constituents, such as molecules.
The behavior of these microscopic particles is described by, and the laws of thermodynamics are derived from, statistical mechanics. The study of thermodynamics is fundamental to materials science. It forms the foundation to treat general phenomena in materials science and engineering, including chemical reactions, magnetism, polarizability, and elasticity. It also helps in the understanding of phase diagrams and phase equilibrium.
Chemical kinetics is the study of the rates at which systems that are out of equilibrium change under the influence of various forces. When applied to materials science, it deals with how a material changes with time moves from non-equilibrium to equilibrium state due to application of a certain field. It details the rate of various processes evolving in materials including shape, size, composition and structure. Diffusion is important in the study of kinetics as this is the most common mechanism by which materials undergo change.
Kinetics is essential in processing of materials because, among other things, it details how the microstructure changes with application of heat. Materials science is a highly active area of research. Together with materials science departments, physics , chemistry , and many engineering departments are involved in materials research.
Materials research covers a broad range of topics — the following non-exhaustive list highlights a few important research areas. Nanomaterials research takes a materials science-based approach to nanotechnology , using advances in materials metrology and synthesis which have been developed in support of microfabrication research. Materials with structure at the nanoscale often have unique optical, electronic, or mechanical properties.
The field of nanomaterials is loosely organized, like the traditional field of chemistry, into organic carbon-based nanomaterials such as fullerenes, and inorganic nanomaterials based on other elements, such as silicon.
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Examples of nanomaterials include fullerenes , carbon nanotubes , nanocrystals , etc. A biomaterial is any matter, surface, or construct that interacts with biological systems. The study of biomaterials is called bio materials science. It has experienced steady and strong growth over its history, with many companies investing large amounts of money into developing new products. Biomaterials science encompasses elements of medicine , biology , chemistry , tissue engineering , and materials science.
Biomaterials can be derived either from nature or synthesized in a laboratory using a variety of chemical approaches using metallic components, polymers , bioceramics , or composite materials. They are often intended or adapted for medical applications, such as biomedical devices which perform, augment, or replace a natural function.
Such functions may be benign, like being used for a heart valve , or may be bioactive with a more interactive functionality such as hydroxylapatite coated hip implants. Biomaterials are also used every day in dental applications, surgery, and drug delivery.
For example, a construct with impregnated pharmaceutical products can be placed into the body, which permits the prolonged release of a drug over an extended period of time.