The future of the world with materials science and engineering

Devices that allow us to 'talk' to fish, machines the size of a human hair, implants controlled by the chemicals in our bodies, and super-light weight space stations could all be a part of our technological future. Launching the new millennium with a preview of some of the materials technologies that will be shaping our tomorrows, Materials World has gathered together the thoughts of four leading materials scientists on what they think the materials technologies of the future will be.

"The next generation of biomaterials will actually help direct the healing process," says Dr Richard France from the University of Sheffield, UK. "Materials will be able to interact with individual cells by responding to specific chemical signals - making more natural and effective repairs to our bodies." One such advancement could stem from some researchers in Switzerland who are working on polymer gels that can be used to seal and repair arterial defects.

Ceramics will be crucial to the success of tomorrow's key technologies, says Professor Robert Newnham from Penn State University, USA. "Whether scaling-up for engineering megaworks or scaling down for tiny electronic and optical components that disappear inside integrated organic systems, ceramics will play a vital role," he says. One such technology is the development of PZT hydrophone arrays and high-speed spectrum analysis that could be used to record and translate "fish talk" -- a useful tool should we come to rely on aquaculture to feed the world's growing population. "The scale of such fish farming would be comparable to cattle ranching in the Wild West," says Newnham.

Nanotechnology will be a multi-billion industry in the 21st Century, says Professor George Smith from the University of Oxford. Nanotechnology will bring a new world full of opportunity for technologically advanced nations thanks to rapid improvements in electronics, communications, computing and medical treatments. Research is currently

Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
Institute of Materials

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