Materials Research and the Corporate Sector

Introduction

ARDEN L.BEMENT, JR.

Many of us have been witness to the increasingly vital force of materials science in the enhancement of U.S. industrial technological potential over the past 25 years. The emergence of new technologies over this period has created demands for advanced materials. Likewise, the development of new materials systems has accelerated advances in new technologies.

This synergistic process has occurred throughout history but never with the intensity apparent today. The major reason for this intensity is our growing ability to devise entirely new materials systems of engineering significance. Examples include the synthesis of diamond and other ultrahard compounds, semiconductor lasers, ultrapure optical wave guides, high-energy-density magnetic materials, high figure-of-merit piezoelectrics, high-modulus fibers, high-purity ultrafine ceramic powders, semiconductor superconductor superlattice and supermatrix devices, polymer blends, and so on.

The establishment of the Materials Research Laboratories (MRLs) was an inspired achievement. The problems faced by the Coordinating Committee for Materials Research and Development 25 years ago are the same problems facing universities today, namely, how to acquire modern research facilities and how to foster cross-disciplinary research efforts to address the more complex problems in materials science. However, the MRLs have achieved much more over the years than the solution to these problems. These labo-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research Materials Research and the Corporate Sector Introduction ARDEN L.BEMENT, JR. Many of us have been witness to the increasingly vital force of materials science in the enhancement of U.S. industrial technological potential over the past 25 years. The emergence of new technologies over this period has created demands for advanced materials. Likewise, the development of new materials systems has accelerated advances in new technologies. This synergistic process has occurred throughout history but never with the intensity apparent today. The major reason for this intensity is our growing ability to devise entirely new materials systems of engineering significance. Examples include the synthesis of diamond and other ultrahard compounds, semiconductor lasers, ultrapure optical wave guides, high-energy-density magnetic materials, high figure-of-merit piezoelectrics, high-modulus fibers, high-purity ultrafine ceramic powders, semiconductor superconductor superlattice and supermatrix devices, polymer blends, and so on. The establishment of the Materials Research Laboratories (MRLs) was an inspired achievement. The problems faced by the Coordinating Committee for Materials Research and Development 25 years ago are the same problems facing universities today, namely, how to acquire modern research facilities and how to foster cross-disciplinary research efforts to address the more complex problems in materials science. However, the MRLs have achieved much more over the years than the solution to these problems. These labo-

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research ratories have demonstrated that peer interactions among graduate students brought together from different disciplines to share facilities can intensify the environment for creativity and greatly broaden the learning experience. Unfortunately, industry’s exposure to the work of the MRLs has been, by and large, indirect, partly because the focus of the MRLs has been considerably upstream conceptually from that of industry. With the exception of a handful of outstanding industrial research laboratories, most companies do not seek out common interfaces with the MRLs. Moreover, interaction with industry was not designed into the MRL model at the outset, certainly not to the extent that it has been included in more recent NSF programs such as the Engineering Research Centers and the Presidential Young Investigators programs. However, the existing NSF models for industry-university interaction are still far more concerned with leveraging the funding inputs than with leveraging the technology transfer outputs. Since technology transfer is best achieved through personal interactions, the potential for improving the effectiveness of these interactions through collaborative research, scientist exchanges, internships, and the like is far greater than has been realized to date. Finally, although the United States enjoys a comparative advantage over the rest of the world because of its strong materials science base, this is not enough in the face of growing worldwide competition. We must also be comparatively effective in strengthening our science base and in exploiting it to add greater value to our industrial products. We all share a vital interest in the success of this enterprise because future investment in the national science and technology base will depend directly upon a strong and growing economy. We must find ways to increase the dividends from such investment if we are to build the university research infrastructure that we believe is needed. While the key to global industrial competitiveness is not science and technology alone, nations that have a strong science and technology base will have a decided advantage in providing new products and services at the highest quality and lowest cost. This chapter addresses these and other issues centering on the role of materials research in relation to current and future needs, opportunities, and threats in selected industries. An Automotive Industry Viewpoint of Materials Research JULIUS J.HARWOOD The Materials Research Laboratories and the many associated events that have taken place in the materials field since 1960 are in large part responsible for our recognition today that advanced materials are key to many future

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research industrial innovations and growth in advanced propulsion systems, microelectronics, energy conversion, and a broad range of engineered and manufactured products. Accordingly, advanced materials technology has emerged as one of the major thrusts of national policy planning and programs throughout the industrial world, and particularly in the United States and Japan. Materials technology shares the spotlight with next-generation computers, biotechnology, very-large-scale integrated circuits, robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence. In the past several years, there has been a shift not only in technological thrust in the United States, but also in the debate and philosophical discussion related to national materials policy. Our concerns have changed from vulnerability of strategic materials and mineral resources to issues related to industrial innovations in advanced materials and research and development priorities associated with these issues. The debate between high-technology and smokestack industries is over. New technology and knowledge-based industrial activities have emerged as the keys for the future—new technology serving both the core of new entrepreneurial high-technology industries and rejuvenating established industrial sectors. There is a growing awareness that the United States’ materials competitiveness and industrial innovation potential in transportation, communication and information systems, and manufacturing rest more upon the development and application of advanced materials and less critically upon the problems besetting the traditional minerals and commodity industries. All of this has led to a remarkable intensity of research and development activity and technological developments in advanced materials (worldwide) and the emergence of new materials industries. Also, it is becoming clear that traditional patterns and segmentation of industrial production are not so readily compatible with accelerated and aggressive industrial exploitation of these new materials technologies. New, innovative industrial coalitions, fresh organizational structures, intercompany cooperation, and information sharing in R&D are becoming more and more evident in this country, as are new modes of industry financing and investment, e.g., R&D limited partnerships. These changes hold profound implications for the development of future industrial infrastructures. This may be particularly true in the commodity materials industries, in which traditional strength in a single or limited range of materials product classes is giving way to a diversified materials character. This transition is markedly evident in the changing industrial scope and activity of several of our large, formerly single-commodity-oriented companies. One sees a growing integration trend in these companies in becoming, as well, producers and suppliers of fabricated end-item components and consumer products for the higher value-added of engineered products in the marketplace.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research In like manner, far-reaching changes are taking place in the automotive industry in its all-out attempt to survive the onslaught of foreign competition. New technology has been pinpointed as one of the industry’s keys to survival, and materials technology has been assigned a paramount role in this enterprise. The automotive industry is a voracious consumer of materials and increasingly, unlike in the past, the industry is becoming a key arena in which new high-technology materials and manufacturing methods are being translated into large-scale industrial practice. In the near term, say by 1990, the automobile may outwardly resemble what is on our roads today, but how that car is manufactured and assembled, the materials from which it is manufactured, and how its functions are controlled are undergoing remarkable changes. The basic technologies that used to be indigenous to the automotive industry also are changing. Not too many years ago, Ford research was aggressively pushing the development of onboard computers for feedback loop control systems to control engine operations and emissions. In retrospect, it is interesting to recall the debates with the conventional engineering community who preferred to opt for electromechanical hardware, rather than electronic devices, for reliable control systems. Yet, probably the most aggressive in-house training program under way today in the automotive industry is the conversion of mechanical engineers into electronic and electrical engineers to meet the new challenges to the industry. Obviously, as is the case almost throughout the U.S. industrial system, computer scientists and engineers, software analysts, information systems specialists, electronic engineers, and computer personnel of all types are the most sought-after technologists to support design, engineering, development, and manufacturing operations across the board. Following are a few examples of the newer materials technologies that will exert important influences on the automobile and on the industry. ELECTRONIC AND INFORMATION MATERIALS The automobile in a true sense is becoming a communication center on wheels. The impact of electronics and information control systems on driving, engine, braking, suspension and ride quality, transmission, accident avoidance, and driver information operations is only in its infancy. While the automotive industry may not take a leadership role in developing advanced electronic materials, microelectronics, fiber optics, and electro-optical and memory devices, we certainly can expect to see their fast translation and exploitation for automotive vehicle use. In a real sense, the automotive industry will be right on the heels of the electronics and information materials industries, eager to adapt the benefits of photonics, fiber optics, better semiconductor chips, smart sensors, and the like. Semiconductor materials, sensor

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research materials, and information (electro-optical) materials will become as basic to the automotive industry as were conventional structural materials. STRUCTURES PLASTICS AND FIBER-REINFORCED PLASTIC COMPONENTS Over the next 10 years there will be a remarkable change in the use of basic materials in motor vehicles. As is already evident from some of the recent announcements, plastics will play a more and more important role. While the current emphasis still is focused on their use for non-load-bearing exterior panel applications, aggressive application programs are under way to prove out their potential as structural materials candidates. There are experimental vehicles “on the road” that are predominantly plastic cars, with rather exciting performance characteristics. Even though weight saving will probably always be an important objective, the primary impetus for the use of structural plastics and fiber-reinforced composites does not lie in their weight-saving and fuel-economy potential. Rather, it is the opportunities they provide for low manufacturing investment, lower manufacturing costs, and the ability to be flexible and responsive to changing market conditions and more rapid entry into the marketplace with differentiated and diversified vehicles. CERAMICS A third technology, which has emerged as a potentially important automotive class of materials, is advanced ceramics. Much is heard today about “ceramics fever,” denoting the intense efforts and national programs both in the United States and in Japan. Depending upon the sources one prefers, it has been claimed that the total advanced ceramics effort constitutes between $50 million and $100 million per year. Although the predominant current use and projected near-term markets for the new advanced ceramics lie in electronic applications (such as integrated circuit substrates, packages, capacitors, sensors, and dielectrics), the real driving force for the national focus on structural ceramics both in the United States and in Japan, and more recently in Western Europe, is their potential application in advanced automotive heat engines or power plants. It is the potential automotive engine market that drives the large national investments and the remarkable degree of industrial activity that is evident, particularly in companies that heretofore were not involved in traditional ceramic sectors. Dramatic progress has been made in the engineering of new ceramic materials classes and in fabrication processing for shape making. It is anticipated that ceramic applications in adiabatic diesels and in associated engine applications will be in production vehicles within the next

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research 5 to 10 years. Nissan has already announced the use of ceramic turbocharger rotors in some of its 1986 vehicles and Isuzu talks about having an all-ceramic engine by the 1990s. Ceramic gas turbines also are in development at Ford and General Motors under contracts with the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. There is no question that the application of ceramics for low heat-rejection engines (e.g., the adiabatic diesel) and the implications for superior fuel economy represent a major thrust and a new technology for the automotive industry. NONEQUILIBRIUM MATERIALS: RAPID SOLIDIFICATION TECHNOLOGY Most lists of important materials technologies for the future would include rapid solidification technology (RST). It is interesting to note that the largest application of RST in the near term will be in the United States. Ironneodymium-boron high-performance magnets made by melt spinning for automotive starter motors will represent the first major, truly high-volume application of RST materials. In fact, one of the giants of the automotive industry will become one of the largest producers of rapidly solidified materials in the United States. The use of these new high-performance magnets enables a reduction of about 50 percent in motor size and weight compared with conventional wire-wound starter motors. Here, then, is a model example of how an industry that is geared to the exploitation of high technology can rapidly adapt itself to the development and application of a new materials technology and become a leader in the field. MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY AND NEAR NET-SHAPE FABRICATION PROCESSING A radical transformation is taking place in the design, manufacture, and assembly of automotive vehicles. Manufacturing technology and, in particular, near net-shape fabrication processing are a key underpinning of advanced materials technology in the automotive industry. The automotive industry frequently has been called a chip-making operation because of the large volume of machining operations. Any innovation that minimizes or eliminates machining operations and finishing steps has an obvious impact upon production cost and productivity increase. The development of near net-shape fabrication processing has become a major thrust of manufacturing R&D programs. A strong linkage has emerged between materials technology and manufacturing technology, with the knowledge that the success of a new material, device, or hardware concept depends inherently upon a processing innovation or improvement that did not exist previously. Information technologies obviously are driving the recognition that man-

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research ufacturing, in essence, is data technology and information flow. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) have already demonstrated greater potential for improving manufacturing capability and productivity than has been shown by all other types of advanced manufacturing technologies combined. SURFACE-MODIFICATION TECHNOLOGY The ability to transform and control the surface composition, surface structure, and surface properties of materials is emerging as a powerful technological tool. The use of plasma processes such as chemical vapor deposition, physical vapor deposition, sputtering, ion implantation, and laser processing has already demonstrated their inherent power. Fifty percent of all carbide cutting tools are now coated to improve life and performance, and it has been predicted that more than half of all machine tools for cutting and forming will be surface coated before the end of the decade. Surface-modification technology involves highly sophisticated equipment. Our better understanding of surface behavior during the deposition and transformation of nonequilibrium and disordered surface structures, which include gradient, layered, and composite films, offers exciting new approaches for the development of novel materials in addition to more efficient uses of materials. Clearly, other thrusts in materials science and technology could be cited, but the above half dozen are indicative of the new thrusts in automotive materials technology. CONCLUSIONS Since this volume celebrates a quarter century of contributions by the Materials Research Laboratories and their predecessors, a few observations about the Materials Research Laboratories are in order. From a research viewpoint—and the automotive industry is a major employer of researchers— the Materials Research Laboratories and associated faculty research activities have contributed to the industry a major intellectual resource and the people to carry out research. They have fostered new attitudes and new ways of thinking that have spurred the growth of materials technology in the automotive industry. The Materials Research Laboratories and their cousins on campuses probably will have an even more important future role to play with respect to industrial interaction. As our U.S. industries become more mission oriented and less research oriented because of the pressures of international competition and the constraints of economic and other problems, the next generation of research findings in materials science will probably become the almost exclusive domain of universities and research centers like the Materials Re-

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research search Laboratories. Except for the few companies that can maintain a respectable scientific research establishment, the industrial structure in the United States increasingly will depend on university research for new scientific ideas. Industrial research and development will concentrate on transforming those ideas into technological progress and applications. Yet we can note a growing trend in academia, particularly in state-supported colleges and universities, to extend their traditional public service role to become key players in state and regional programs to promote industrial revitalization and technological growth. The new, adaptive industry-oriented mission roles of universities bring some concern about the distribution of university activities and resources between pure research and support for industry technology and growth. Universities also are developing new, innovative modes of interaction and linkage with industry, including the formation of university sponsored venture capital and entrepreneurial companies. These are providing a new academic proving ground for a new breed of technologists and scientists who can take their place in this coming age of entrepreneurship, as described by Peter Drucker in his recent book Innovation and Entrepreneurship—Practice and Principles. For an industry such as the auto industry, this is all to the good. The automotive industry in its changing mode needs not only technologists who know technology, but technologists who have the instincts, attitudes, and drive to use science and technology in an entrepreneurial fashion. Materials for the Electrical and Electronics Industry JOHN K.HULM Materials research and development at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation are a vital part of the corporation’s business strategy. Westinghouse probably typifies the needs of the electrical and electronic industries for specialized materials. It manufactures electrical and electronic equipment in three general areas: Electric Power Systems Distribution equipment, nuclear plants Industrial Equipment Electric motors, controls, instruments, robots, elevators, escalators, electric transportation systems Defense Equipment Power systems, space, airborne and groundbased radar systems, sonar, missile launching systems Most of these products make extensive use of advanced materials. About

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research 40 percent of the total effort of the Westinghouse Research and Development Center is devoted directly to work on materials. This includes not only the development of new materials but also the characterization, testing, and evaluation of materials for specific applications. Also included are new methods of manipulating materials—for example, the cutting, drilling, cladding, and joining of materials using lasers. In Westinghouse laboratories the pressures of product maintenance and improvement and new product development are such that most materials work is highly applied. Currently only 10 to 15 percent of Westinghouse’s effort is devoted to basic or exploratory effort—this mainly constitutes tackling basic problems that stand in the way of advancement of the applied work. In this climate, Westinghouse relies heavily upon university departments of chemistry, physics, and materials science, as well as the MRLs, for new information on materials, new properties, new methods of preparation and characterization, and so forth. It has joined some cooperative research programs, where the fee is modest. It uses university consultants extensively and bids jointly with various universities on government contracts. Needless to say, many of the materials personnel at Westinghouse were trained in the MRLs or equivalents. It is not possible to discuss all of the materials research relevant to the diverse group of products that Westinghouse manufactures. Instead, this discussion focuses on two particular questions: (1) What emerging materials will have the greatest effect on our industry in the next 15 years? (2) Which industrial requirements pose the greatest challenge to materials research over the next 15 years? In my view, the materials affecting Westinghouse to the greatest extent in the next several decades will be those underlying the current revolution in electronics, computers, and communication. Thus, a few of the most important materials functions that directly affect Westinghouse businesses and where there is continuing, rapid change of technology are Sensor materials Integrated-circuit materials Microwave amplifier materials Surface acoustic wave materials Optical fibers Laser materials Electro-optic materials Acousto-optic materials This pace probably will not slow down before the turn of the century. Indeed, it will probably accelerate, particularly the evolution of the higher-frequency and optical end of the spectrum.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research FIGURE 1 Schematic diagram of vibration monitor using a quartz bar to sense movement of the end turns in large turbine generators. The need for these detection and signal-processing functions for Westinghouse radar and sonar businesses will be obvious. But what do such materials and components have to do with large power plants? The answer is simply that for the first time in history we have the capability of equipping large machines—such as reactors, turbines, and generators— with first-class nervous systems. We use advanced sensors to detect temperature rise, vibration, electric discharge noise, and chemical emissions. Fiber-optic or acoustic waveguides provide ideal signal output channels where high electrical voltages are present. Data from a variety of sensors can be combined in a probabilistic fashion to diagnose incipient faults. Corrective action can often be taken before the condition becomes serious and forces a plant shutdown, resulting in serious economic loss. Three examples of new sensors already in experimental use in power systems are vibration monitors that use a quartz bar to sense movement of the end turns in large turbine generators (Figure 1); optical instrument transformers, which measure the current in a high-voltage power line by using the Faraday rotation of polarized light in an optical fiber (Figure 2); and the use of acousto-optic materials to build spectrum analyzers for both military and industrial use. The principle of the third example is that microwave signals from hostile radar sources are converted into acoustic waves in an

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research acousto-optic cell. The key material in the cell has a high photoelastic coupling coefficient, so that the optical refractive index is modulated by the acoustic wave. This sets up a diffraction grating through which monochromatic laser light is passed. The diffracted light represents a Fourier transform of the original radar signal, producing a power-frequency spectrum that is the basis for applying countermeasures. Essentially this same device is shortly to be used in an industrial application to analyze gases emitted during combustion in power plants, steel mills, and FIGURE 2 Schematic diagram of an optical instrument transformer that uses the Faraday rotation of polarized light in an optical fiber for measuring the current in a high-voltage power line.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research FIGURE 3 Schematic diagram of a spectrum analyzer using an acousto-optic tunable filter (AOTF) to analyze combustion products in industrial applications. the like (Figure 3). This particular device works in the infrared, and it necessitated development of a new acousto-optical crystal, thallium arsenic selenide. I see a growing demand for new crystalline materials with special properties as more and more signal conversion and processing are done in the infrared and optical ranges. More complex crystals will have to be grown and new techniques of crystal growth will be needed to better control impurities, stoichiometry, defects, and so on. Even the quality of the electronics workhorse, silicon, is still being improved in the area of device quality, particularly in large power devices for power conversion. Marching in step with the crystalline explosion is the rapidly growing use of thin films. Improved high-vacuum technology, and techniques such as molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), make it possible to enter a hitherto inaccessible world of new, thin crystalline materials with specially tailored electronic properties. Westinghouse set up an MBE system that is used to develop thin-film superconductors for Josephson junctions to be applied in high-speed signal processing. The research team has been able to grow single-crystal films of both A15 and B1 superconductors by epitaxial growth on a variety of substrates. Passive films will play almost as crucial a role as active films, with all gradations in between. New film deposition methods will be needed for glasses, ceramics, and organic materials that will be used as insulators and dielectrics, as well as hermetic encapsulants.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research Although the question of where emerging materials will have the greatest impact on Westinghouse has been partially answered, the materials base of electrical energy production and conversion, the so-called energy materials, has not been mentioned. These materials are discussed in relation to the second question, that is, what industrial requirements pose the greatest challenge to materials research over the next 15 years? Two classes of needs are evident in the materials technology of present-day power plants, reactors, turbines, and generators. The first class includes solutions to long-standing problems of conventional materials— corrosion, stress corrosion, crack growth, insulation aging, and radiation damage. Improvements in this area have been incremental and are likely to remain so. The second class of needs is related to such new materials as amorphous magnetic alloys, fiber-reinforced composites, and superconductors. Here, advances are likely to be more radical but may not be used. For example, U.S. development of superconducting generators is almost at a standstill. There is always a set of materials problems that are never completely solved. Often these problems are bound up more with plant operation than with basic defects in the materials themselves. In this connection, the extension of plant life has become very important, and nondestructive methods for evaluation of materials are essential. Defects must be looked for in finished industrial materials. Included are a wide variety of surface and interior defects (Figure 4). Such investigations must often be done under extremely hostile conditions, particularly in nuclear plants, where robotics and remote control are needed. Various inspection methods have become extremely useful (Figure 5). Most of these have now combined with computer systems to generate complete three-dimensional images of the defect under study. Take, for example, a pitting defect in a tube of a nuclear steam generator—the images may be made from the inside of the tube using two different methods, ultrasonics and eddy currents. In electric energy technology the turbine generator set is unlikely to be displaced in the next 50 years as the primary method of utility power generation. Coal-fired stations might shift to fluidized bed boilers, and efforts will be made to remove sulfur before it reaches the stack and has to be scrubbed out. One may also view the problem of removing sulfur from coal as a materials problem. We are likely to see the onset of new auxiliary power sources, even in the next 15 years. The fuel cell, invented around 1820, now seems near industrial deployment because of advances in materials technology. There are several candidates. The phosphoric acid cell has been used in multi-megawatt experimental plants. The solid oxide cell is also coming along rapidly.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research FIGURE 4 Examples of surface and interior defects and conditions affecting the performance of materials. Redrawn, with permission, from New Science Publications, London. FIGURE 5 Examples of nondestructive testing and inspection methods, many of which are now combined with computer techniques to generate three-dimensional images of defects in materials. Redrawn, with permission, from New Science Publications, London.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research FIGURE 6 Schematic diagram of solid oxide cell, a high-efficiency, all-solid-state power generating device with about 50 percent efficiency. The solid oxide cell is probably the only high-efficiency, all-solid-state power generating device (Figure 6). The key element is a yttria-zirconia alloy that conducts oxygen ions at 900°C. Gaseous fuel is applied to one side of the tube and air to the other. Oxygen ions migrate through the ceramic and react with the fuel, releasing electrons as they do so. The device thus generates power. It may reach about 50 percent efficiency, exceeding the 42 percent efficiency of a coal-fired plant. In this area of technology there is a lot of room for research in ionic conduction in solids, and better conductors at lower temperatures would be a great help. This discussion has focused on the near-term electric energy technologies. Obviously, there are many, more long-term developments, such as fusion, magnetohydrodynamic power, and geothermal power, where the limitations of present high-temperature materials are one of the principal barriers to progress—an area in which future materials research should be concentrated.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research Materials Science Research and Industry HAROLD W.PAXTON In 1972, when the National Science Foundation (NSF) took over administration of the Materials Research Laboratories (MRLs) from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), there were some interesting discussions with the directors, not always totally amicable, on what should be done in the MRLs to differentiate them from the more conventional NSF programs. From those discussions arose the concept of “thrust areas,” where emphasis was placed on bringing several different talents to bear on significant problems of a university’s own choosing. So, in a recent informal survey of my colleagues in industry, my first question, loosely translated, was what have the MRLs done for you lately? Unfortunately, the answers that came back stated that they could not think of anything that the MRLs were doing that had sufficiently influenced their present concerns. The experiment was conducted again at a meeting of the Industrial Research Institute (IRI). The IRI is essentially the vice presidents for research and technology from 270 of the nation’s industrial companies. Between them, they spend about 85 percent of the dollars allocated for industrial research. Members were asked the question approximately as follows: how have the MRLs influenced your research program in the last few years? The question was addressed to representatives from manufacturing companies—ranging from automobile and off-road vehicle manufacturers to chemical companies active in the polymer business, and to others as the occasion arose. The results were uniform, if not very comforting. MRLs had to be explained to a number of these people, and even after that explanation, no one could be found who could think of any difference the MRLs had made. I discussed these results with a very respected friend of mine who runs a large materials laboratory at a large corporation. Earlier I had deliberately not asked him or any members of his group because I was sure the MRLs would not only be recognized, but the contributions they could make would be well known to him and his colleagues. He replied, “Not necessarily; I am sure I have a lot of people working for me who have no close association with the MRLs.” Now, what does this tell us or what should we hope to learn from this admittedly imperfect poll? Please note that it does not tell us that the MRL program is not worthwhile or not doing first-class research and turning out new concepts and the people to introduce these concepts into industry. What it does tell us is that there is a clear gap in communication between the MRLs and at least a substantial and significant number of U.S. industries. In our present set of concerns with industrial competitiveness on a world

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research scale, this is a problem we should address. It cannot be dismissed because many of the industries that were informally surveyed have been in the first wave of international difficulty. We have seen that a succession of industries of increasing sophistication are now facing heavy weather in being competitive internationally. Thus, we have in the MRL system a national asset that is not having the effect it might have. Industry has to worry a great deal about markets and providing service to our customers. “Know your customers” is the watchword. It would be interesting to know if MRL members think their real customers are at the National Science Foundation or perhaps in a broader arena, such as industry, where their ideas would be picked up and used. Good coupling between MRLs and many of the process industries will not be easy. Any time we are dealing in commodities—and these days that means not only sheet steel but also silicon wafers and integrated circuits— the large measure of competitive problems is often developmental engineering and good systems management. In summary, in no way has it been implied that in any way the programs at the MRLs are other than first class. It is, however, difficult to find out what the programs are, and so, at the very minimum, a “highlights” booklet should be prepared each year to be given broad circulation. The extent of knowledge of MRL programs among many industries in the United States is not what it could be and probably not what it should be. The question is, do we want to do anything about it and, if so, what can we do? As a long-time friend of MRLs, I hope we can find some way of getting even more mileage out of this valuable research program, and I would be willing to work with any group that has ideas on doing something about this. Materials and the Information Age ALAN G.CHYNOWETH The term “Information Age” might sound more abstract, less tangible, than “Industrial Age,” more associated with mental processes than physical ones, but it is based just as firmly on materials science and engineering. True, the Information Age is heavily dependent upon software. But just as sheet music is rather lifeless without the hardware of musical instruments, so also is software useless without integrated circuits for its implementation. In contrast to the structural, mechanical, and electrical technologies of the Industrial Age, the Information Age makes relatively modest demands on raw material resources and energy and is usually benign in its interaction

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research with the environment. On the other hand, the communications, computer, and control technologies, the “three Cs” of the Information Age, are probably the most complex, sophisticated, and demanding technology systems yet devised by mankind. They are rich in invention and added value resulting from intensive, often very large and expensive research and development programs. INNOVATION IN COMPLEX TECHNOLOGIES So complex are the Information Age technologies that, except for the occasional and unpredicted but vital discoveries in pure research, the lone scientist or engineer is usually ineffective or powerless to foster technological advances on his own. Such advances need groupings of scientists and engineers, each person bringing different knowledge, experience, skills, and expertise to bear on a common interest or scientific or technological objective. Much as we might wish to have individual “compleat” scientists and engineers, it simply is not possible. Even teams of individuals in a given discipline are usually insufficient. Overall technological progress and innovation require interdisciplinary endeavors pursuing a systems approach on a mission that captures the imagination of all involved. Indeed, just as scientific progress often occurs primarily as a result of almost chance encounters between individuals from different scientific backgrounds, so technological innovation requires more deliberate interactions between such individuals and groups of individuals. Thus, by encouraging the cross-fertilization and synergy that can come from such encounters, research laboratories and centers in industry or academia can achieve extraordinary discoveries, results, and progress. Perhaps one of the most important contributions of the Materials Research Laboratories on the university campuses has been fostering greater appreciation of the vital importance of effective interdisciplinary collaboration both among those who stay on the university campus and among those who leave it to join mission-oriented laboratories. In industry, the necessity of relatively large research and development efforts to achieve critical mass and make technological and business progress in risky and competitive industries runs up against the harsh realities of the marketplace. There are two particularly important approaches for helping to achieve this critical mass in research and development. The first is to provide financial incentives to corporations, particularly through such mechanisms as research tax credits. The continuation of these credits is a factor in improving this country’s technological prowess and competitive position. The second is through corporate collaboration in research and development. Thanks to the Cooperative Research Act of 1984, we are seeing more of this. I myself am now employed by what may be the world’s largest research and development consortium, Bell Communications Research, or Bellcore,

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research formed by the seven regional fragments of the former Bell System. Another consortium, the Microelectronics and Computer Consortium, started from the opposite condition—traditionally separate corporations sharing a common interest in meeting the challenge from overseas in the push toward supercomputers. These and other consortia may well be critical to ensuring this country’s technological progress, but they are not without problems. Perhaps chief among these is when and how to draw the line between shared and proprietary research and development, between cooperation and competition. There are no easy answers to this question. It affects not only research collaboration among industrial companies but also cooperative interaction between universities and industry. The issue needs close attention since its resolution can have a major impact on the prosperity and international competitiveness of this country’s industries. CHALLENGES TO MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES The seminal event usually regarded as the start of the Information Age was the discovery of the transistor, itself an outcome of intensive studies of the basic electronic properties of semiconducting materials. And ever since, progress in the three C’s has been largely paced by the rate of progress in the science and technology of electronic and photonic materials, and this is likely to persist for many years. A long list of scientific and technical challenges and problems can readily be developed, but the first one that I would emphasize is the continued importance of supporting basic research in materials. On this depends the continued discovery of new materials and processes for synthesis and structure fabrication. Such research has always been at the root of technological progress, and we have surely not explored all the opportunities that nature has waiting for us. Recent examples of such new research opportunities include two-dimensional or layered materials, conducting organic compounds, and magnetic semiconductors. A common theme in this research is putting the process-structure-property relationships on a sound theoretical footing. Perhaps the ultimate proof of the mastery of this science will be the routine use of computer-aided design to discover and create new materials with the necessary properties to meet specific needs. Second, the Information Age is primarily based on electronic devices and materials. Chief among these is the silicon integrated circuit, which is vital in the areas of signal processing, logic, and short-term storage. We are approaching the limits of what can be achieved in terms of fine lines and component density in two dimensions on a silicon chip. Further advances call for mastering the processes necessary for proceeding to the third di-

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research mension, along with finding clever ways to minimize or facilitate the heat removal problem. Third, for signal transport, the world is turning increasingly to glass fibers instead of copper wires, to photons instead of electrons. But compared with electronic components, photonic components are still in their infancy. The rate at which the universal communications vision of the Information Age can be turned into reality is still largely determined by the rate at which materials problems can be solved. We need advances in the science and technology of various compound semiconductor materials, of nonlinear optical materials and fibers, and of fluoride or other infrared fiber materials for ultralong-distance, repeaterless transmission. We need advances in optical switching devices, in packaging and interconnection techniques for optical components and for mating these with electronic components, and in fabricating high-speed integrated optoelectronic components. All these potential advances in electronics and photonics portend the era of truly universal wideband communications—voice, data, facsimile, image, and video. In turn, this will put ever-greater demands on information-storage technology. Unfortunately, we still seem to be in the relative dark ages of rotating machinery—involving discs or tapes, magnetic and optical—when it comes to storing enormous amounts of information. With all the wideband transmission and processing technology coming along, mass storage may well become a bottleneck. Thus, the fourth challenge to materials science and engineering in information technologies is the need for advances in the materials aspects and technologies for mass storage. Fifth, underlying all of the above materials problems is the relentless trend to smallness—cramming more and more information processing and storage capability into a smaller and smaller volume. This trend has various implications. For one, as dimensions get smaller, the processing and diagnostic equipment needed gets larger and more expensive. Whereas a $10 hacksaw and file might have sufficed to prepare a sample in the early days of physical metallurgy, we now need million-dollar molecular beam equipment and electron microscopes to prepare and study samples on the atomic scale. Although these equipment needs are not of the same extent as those in high-energy physics, they are nonetheless real, multiple, and significant, and demand attention, especially at the universities, where the availability of such equipment can have enormous consequences for improving this country’s competitive position. Smallness also usually brings with it more vulnerability to damage, corrosion, and other changes on the atomic scale. Ruggedness and reliability may set practical limits on the component density of integrated circuits. Therefore, study of the physical and chemical stability of surfaces and interfaces becomes more critical than ever. Though information technology is usually regarded as relatively benign

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research environmentally, one particular facet perhaps needs more emphasis. Many exotic chemicals are used in the manufacturing processes, some of which can be quite hazardous if mishandled. Thus, sixth, toxicity effects, chemical hazards, and ways to avoid or minimize them need more scientific and technical attention. HUMAN-MACHINE INTERFACE CHALLENGES The Information Age usually connotes immense information bases on every subject and extensive information transport in various media in all directions before finally contributing to modern society’s information overload. We desperately need improved technologies to handle input and output of information, and today’s computer terminals have very limited capabilities. We need more touch-sensitive displays and direct voice interaction rather than keyboards for entering data. We need machines with artificial intelligence to digest masses of information and computer graphics and to help us understand it. Other major challenges in this arena include pattern recognition, and encryption to ensure privacy. Another need is for portability and ubiquitous availability of information services; this, in turn, depends on better materials for electric batteries. All these challenges will need to be met before the terminal can really begin to be regarded as convenient and useful for sophisticated applications. In fact, the technologies at the interface between humans and machines may set the pace for the Information Age. BEYOND THE INFORMATION AGE Topics such as interactive displays and artificial intelligence are beginning to go hand in hand. This is a particularly noteworthy combination of hardware and software, the synergy between which we have hardly begun to address. It perhaps heralds the beginning of the next age—one that we might think of as the age of the intelligent robot or even the Humanoid Age, in which the brawn expanders of the Industrial Age combine with the brain expanders of the Information Age to begin to simulate simple human abilities. Where this combination will lead is for anyone to imagine, but this vision reminds us of a major challenge that continues to mock our relatively puny achievements—the human body, brain, and nervous system. The functioning of all these aspects of human beings is again based on materials, the properties of which we still understand but little. To understand and emulate nature’s success and to develop a robust, often self-healing materials-based system for creating, storing, retrieving, processing, and transmitting information will pose extraordinary challenges to materials scientists and engineers, in collaboration with information scientists and engineers, as far into the future as I, for one, can contemplate.

OCR for page 347
Advancing Materials Research This page in the original is blank.