SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN MATERIALS ACTIVITIES

Nature and Style of Materials Science and Engineering

In its two decades as a discernibly evolving field, materials science and engineering has reflected growing awareness of the central role of materials in society and has experienced increasingly stringent demands imposed on materials by complex technologies. The significance of the field has been reinforced in the past few years by public concern over the quality of the environment and the availability of natural resources.

Activities in materials science and engineering typically range from basic, curiosity-motivated research to applications-directed development. In its most ambitious reaches, the field relates fundamental understanding of the behavior of electrons, atoms, and molecules to the performance of devices, machines, and structures. It links basic research to the solution of practical problems. At the same time, materials scientists and engineers rely heavily on empirical (experienced-based) knowledge. One instance is the management of the pervasive problem of stress-corrosion cracking, which, for example, can cause catastrophic failure in vessels and piping in the electric-power and other industries. This complex problem is still inadequately understood in fundamental terms. Often it can be avoided, nevertheless, by the use of experience-based knowledge in materials selection and design.

The application of basic and empirical knowledge to function is exemplified by the transistor. The device grew out of a practical need, foreseen in the mid-1930’s, to bypass certain intrinsic limitations



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 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN MATERIALS ACTIVITIES Nature and Style of Materials Science and Engineering In its two decades as a discernibly evolving field, materials science and engineering has reflected growing awareness of the central role of materials in society and has experienced increasingly stringent demands imposed on materials by complex technologies. The significance of the field has been reinforced in the past few years by public concern over the quality of the environment and the availability of natural resources. Activities in materials science and engineering typically range from basic, curiosity-motivated research to applications-directed development. In its most ambitious reaches, the field relates fundamental understanding of the behavior of electrons, atoms, and molecules to the performance of devices, machines, and structures. It links basic research to the solution of practical problems. At the same time, materials scientists and engineers rely heavily on empirical (experienced-based) knowledge. One instance is the management of the pervasive problem of stress-corrosion cracking, which, for example, can cause catastrophic failure in vessels and piping in the electric-power and other industries. This complex problem is still inadequately understood in fundamental terms. Often it can be avoided, nevertheless, by the use of experience-based knowledge in materials selection and design. The application of basic and empirical knowledge to function is exemplified by the transistor. The device grew out of a practical need, foreseen in the mid-1930’s, to bypass certain intrinsic limitations

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering of vacuum tubes and relays in communication systems. Various approaches to the problem were examined and abandoned. The search narrowed eventually to solid materials, where a few scientists settled on a hunch that the answer lay in semiconductors. To move from the hunch to the transistor, however, required intensive basic research on the behavior of semiconducting materials. It required also the semiempirical development of zone refining and other techniques to make virtually perfect single crystals of silicon of unprecedented purity. This close linkage of knowledge to function is characteristic of the achievements of materials science and engineering. Selected examples appear in Table 2. A second characteristic of the field is that the initiative for new materials developments, and for the attendant basic research, springs most often from a practical problem, however dimly perceived. It is true that fundamental work on materials has turned up unexpected, momentous discoveries, such as high-field super-conductors. But more frequently, the basic studies have been stimulated by a discovery or invention whose exploitation required greatly expanded fundamental research. Thus the tunnel diode and the laser largely preceded and spurred the extensive basic work on the tunnel and laser effects in materials. Multidisciplinarity and Interdisciplinarity The bodies of knowledge required for progress in materials, and particularly for solving complex technological problems, often do not coincide with those of the traditional disciplines. Materials science and engineering, as a result, has come to embrace a number of traditional disciplines and segments of disciplines (Figure 7), and

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering TABLE 2 Selected Achievements in Materials Science and Engineering Examples of Applications Material or Process Basic Research Transistor, integrated circuits, tunnel diodes, impatt diodes, charge-coupled devices. Zone refining, float-zone crystal growth, controlled doping in Czochralski growth, epitaxial growth, controlled alloying, diffusion, oxide masking, photo- and electron-beam lithography. Elemental semiconductors, effects of impurities on conduction properties, impurity chemistry (segregation, alloy systems), crystal-growth studies, dislocations, surface chemistry. Abrasives. Synthesis of diamond. Boron nitride. Phase equilibria studies under extremes of pressure and temperature. Superconducting solenoids for high magnetic fields. Ultrasensitive electromagnetic signal detectors. Cryogenic logic. New superconductors: high transition temperature, high critical current (e.g., β-tungstens). Superconducting switches. New effects-Josephson effect—in thin superconducting films. Superconductivity. Electrical, magnetic, and thermodynamic properties of metals at extremely low temperatures. Many-body theory. Lattice modes. Cheaper plate glass. Float-glass process.   Joining techniques. Scotch tape. Band-aides. Epoxy cements Structural adhesvies. Pressure-sensitive adhesives. Anaerobic adhesives. Rheology. Physical chemistry of surfaces. Synthesis of compounds. Cheaper steelmaking. Longer-life furnace linings. Chemistry of steelmaking. Basic oxygen process. High-temperature phase equilibria. Ovenware Glass-ceramics. Thermal expansion of ceramics. Nucleation and phase separation. Aerospace alloys. Aluminum conductor cables. Copper conductors, electrical contacts. High-strength and magnetic alloys. Dispersion alloys: Internally oxidized particles to strengthen materials; thoria-dispersed nickel; dispersion-hardened aluminum, copper, and silver. Spinodally decomposed alloys. Thermodynamics of phase diagrams, chemical processes. Particle strengthening.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering Examples of Applications Material or Process Basic Research Aerospace. Turbine blades. Razor blades. Quality cutlery. Magneto-resistance devices. High-strength magnetic alloys. Spring metals. Heat-shrinkable metals. Directional solidification, continuous casting, amorphous metals, precipitation-hardened alloys, and sheet rolling. Solidification studies with transparent analogs. Texture and deformation studies. Heat-treatment effects: precipitation, recrystallization, superplasticity Optical communications. Ranging for ordnance and surveying. Machining. Optically-pumped lasers. Spectroscopy of impurities in crystalline hosts. Synthetic textiles. Spinning of fibers from melts and solutions: rayon, nylon, acrylics, polyesters. Orientation of macromolecular chains. Tires. Vulcanization. Role of molecular networks in determining the properties of rubber. In these examples of materials science and engineering at work, note that the flow of events is not necessarily, or even usually, from basic research to application. The transistor grew from a perceived need, followed by basic research. The float-glass process was developed originally without benefit of basic research. Vulcanized tires were in use long before molecular networks became accessible to study, but the research that came later has made vulcanization a much more effective process.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering FIGURE 7. Disciplinary Mix in Materials Science and Engineering Subjects within the shaded sector above are considered to be in the field of materials science and engineering. Subjects partly or wholly outside the sector are involved in the field to varying degrees. COSMAT estimates, for example, that among the 150,000 chemists in the country, there are the equivalent of 50,000 chemists working full time in materials. (Illustration adapted from Mineral Science and Technology: Non-metallic Materials, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. 1969, page 12.)

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering provides a framework in which the constituent disciplines can assess various opportunities to advance knowledge and help solve societal problems. Together with conventional discipline-oriented activities, the field encompasses both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary work. In multidisciplinary efforts, scientists and engineers from different disciplines tend to work independently, but readily consult among themselves to benefit from cross-fertilization. In interdisciplinary efforts, two or more individuals from different disciplines collaborate closely on problems or missions that do not fit into single disciplines. The notion of interdisciplinarity has become increasingly important in the past three decades in materials research and development and in other fields, such as the environmental sciences. Nonetheless, interdisciplinary research remains somewhat contradictory to the scientific tradition that has evolved in the universities. The academic structure—promotion policies, funding mechanisms, peer-group recognition—tends to be geared to the individual investigator, working primarily in a single discipline. The fostering of interdisciplinary academic programs in materials, in fact, was one of the goals of the 17 interdisciplinary laboratories established at universities in the early 1960’s and funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (see page 37). The interdisciplinary spirit is more evident in industrial and other mission-oriented organizations. Even there, however, the effectiveness of the mechanism is sensitive to the manner in which the laboratory

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering is organized and managed. It is especially dependent on the steps taken to ease communication among individuals, to create an atmosphere in which people from different disciplines can recognize their need for each other’s expertise and the advantages of working together on programs of common purpose. The transition from research to development also requires care. Early in a project an interdisciplinary research and development group may include mainly basic research people with a few engineers. As the work progresses toward application, more engineers may join the group while some of the basic scientists move on to other programs. This flexible, evolutionary process helps to combat the “not invented here” syndrome that can afflict programs in which research and development are done in sequential steps by different groups. The establishment of an institutional focus or mission appears to be especially important to laboratories in materials science and engineering. The mission must be carefully chosen and stated, and it must transcend the aspirations of individuals. Themes like communications, energy, and transportation have proved broad enough in some laboratories to draw on many disciplines and yet are specific enough to give the interacting scientists and engineers a sense of common purpose, even in their long-range research. Shorter-range development and engineering problems, in particular, are seldom solved by individuals working on self-chosen bits and pieces related to the problem but not germane to its solution. National and Institutional Capability Materials activities are clearly sizable in this country, where 6 percent of the world’s population accounts for somewhere between a

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering quarter and a half of the world’s annual consumption of natural resources. The United States is very strong in materials science and engineering, but certain weaknesses, if unattended to, could progressively erode the nation’s ability to meet the materials needs of its people. These weaknesses are due in part to the diffusion of responsibility for materials plans and programs at the federal level. To a considerable degree, the same diffusion of responsibility is found in the universities, in both education and research. Contributing also to weaknesses in materials are shortcomings in the generation and application of basic knowledge. National capability in materials science and engineering relies on the trained manpower and basic knowledge produced by the universities and on the application of basic knowledge by industry and other mission-oriented institutions. An organization is better able to assess and exploit new knowledge generated elsewhere when it is able itself to generate new knowledge. Thus knowledge moves more readily from the universities to industry when companies do an appropriate amount of well-chosen basic research. It moves more efficiently also when universities conduct an appropriate amount of applied research. Current difficulties on both scores are pointed out under Universities (page 37) and Industry (page 41). The importance of materials suggests that materials science and engineering should be a prolific producer of knowledge. That this is so is indicated by the literature as abstracted in Chemical Abstracts. In 1970 Chemical Abstracts abstracted 276,674 papers and patents, of which 45 percent were in materials science and engineering. Over the past two decades, the world-wide literature in materials science and

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering engineering has maintained an annual growth rate of 9 percent whereas the annual growth rate for Chemical Abstracts as a whole has dropped from 8.8 percent in 1950–60 to 6.7 percent in 1960–70. Materials literature originating in the United States has been growing in recent years at 11 percent annually as compared with 13 percent for the Soviet Union, which overtook the United States in materials publications as far back as 1957. The United States produced about 25 percent of the materials papers in 1970; the Soviet Union 33 percent; and Japan 5.8 percent. In the United States, educational institutions were the chief source (50 percent) of the materials literature, followed by industry (25 percent) and government (15 percent). The United States accounted for 40 percent of the world’s patents in 1970, and Japan 12.9 percent. Manpower Existing data on scientific and engineering manpower generally are not categorized along the multidisciplinary lines of materials science and engineering. We have used a list of specialties characterizing the field, therefore, to extract manpower data from prime sources. On this basis it appears that materials science and engineering involves some 500,000 of the 1.8 million scientists and engineers in the United States. We estimate (Table 3) that there is a full-time equivalent of 315,000 scientists and engineers in the field, including about 115,000 full-time practitioners. Within the latter group are approximately 50,000 professionals holding materials-designated degrees. Engineers, even without counting the materials-designated professionals, constitute the largest manpower group in materials science and engineering; they number 400,000 individuals, and constitute a full-time equivalent of

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering TABLE 3 Estimates of Manpower in Principal Disciplinary Sectors of Materials Science and Engineering   Full -Time Equivalent Discipline Total Manpower MSE Manpower Total Doctorates Chemists 150,000 50,000 (16%) 19,000 (51%) Physicists 45,000 15,000 (5%) 8,000 (22%) Metallurgists 40,000 40,000 (13%) 5,000 (13%) Ceramists 10,000 10,000 (3%) 1,000 (3%) Other Engineers 1,200,000 200,000b (63%) 4,000 (11%)   1,445,000a 315,000 (100%) 37,000 (100%) a The total number of scientists and engineers in the United States is about 1.8 million. b Approximately 400,000 engineers are involved significantly in materials science and engineering. We estimate, conservatively, that they divide their efforts equally between materials and other engineering activities and thus are equivalent to 200,000 engineers working full time in materials.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering 200,000. The situation with respect to women and minority groups in the materials field appears to be no different from that in science and engineering generally. The current state of manpower data for materials science and engineering, and our knowledge of the relevant patterns of manpower flow, do not permit reasonable comparisons of the field with the traditional disciplines. However, as the role of materials science and engineering in meeting societal needs becomes more widely understood, it is quite possible that there will be an increasing demand for scientists and engineers in the materials field. It should be emphasized that the boundaries of materials science and engineering are blurred and continually evolving. The central disciplines and subdisciplines include solid-state physics and chemistry, polymer physics and chemistry, metallurgy, ceramics, and portions of many engineering disciplines. In a broad sense the field also includes segments of mechanics; of organic, physical, analytical, and inorganic chemistry; and of chemical, mechanical, electrical, electronic, civil, environmental, aeronautical, nuclear, and industrial engineering (Table 4), Government Materials science and engineering has been shaped in a major way in the past two decades by federal research and development programs that evolved in response to national needs and goals. Direct federal funding of materials research and development totaled some $260 million* in *   Other data suggest that the figure may be as high as $300 million, depending on the definition of terms. Some agencies, and COSMAT, consider research in solid-state physics, for example, to be materials research, while others do not.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering FIGURE 8 Factors Involved in the Flow of Materials. Source: Robert U.Ayres and Allen V.Kneese, “Pollution and Environmental Quality,” Quality of the Urban Environment, Harvey S.Perloff, Ed., Resources for the Future, Inc., Washington, D.C., p. 37.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering TABLE 8 Selected Industry Components of the Gross National Product (1971) (1971 GNP=$1,050,356 million)   Millions % of GNP Metal Mining $ 1,290 0.12 Mining and Quarrying of Nonmetallic Metals 1,654 0.16 Stone, Clay and Glass Products 8,710 0.83 Primary Metal Industries 18,923 1.80 Fabricated Metal Products 16,427 1.56 Machinery, except Electrical 26,066 2.48 Electrical Machinery 22,388 2.13 Transportation Equipment, except Motor Vehicles 14,582 1.39 Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment 22,824 2.17 Instruments 6,456 0.61 Miscellaneous Manufacturing Industries 4,144 0.39 Chemicals and Allied Products 20,387 1.94 Rubber and Miscellaneous Plastic Products 7,371 0.70 Lumber and Wood Products, except Furniture 6,395 0.61 Furniture and Fixtures 3,984 0.38 Paper and Allied Products 9,357 0.89 Textile Mill Products 8,234 0.78 Apparel and Other Fabricated Textile Products 9,293 0.88 Leather and Leather Products 2,219 0.21   $210,704 20.03   Source: U.S. Department of Commerce.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering measure is manufacturing employment related to materials, which was just over 16 million in 1970 or about 21 percent of total employment. Still another view of the economic significance of materials is provided by an analysis of structural changes in the economy arising from changes in technology.* The analysis was based on input-output tables for 1947 and 1958, a period in which tonnages and dollar values of materials were rising steadily. The results show strikingly the trend toward a service economy during this period, as indicated by the relative increases in “nonmaterial” or “general” inputs, which were largely balanced by relative decreases in the inputs of materials and semifinished goods. The iron and steel sector, for example, declined relatively some 27 percent although it grew about one third in absolute terms.** Besides the trend toward a service economy, the decline reflected substitution of aluminum and plastics for steel as well as weight-reducing design changes based on improvements in the properties of steel. Nonferrous metals decreased 23 percent, relatively, as the greater use of aluminum was more than offset by declines in other nonferrous metals. The analysis showed also that: “The classical dominance of single kinds of material—metals, stone, clay and glass, wood, natural fibers, rubber, leather, plastics, and so on—in each kind of production has given way by 1958 to increasing diversification of *   Carter, A.P., “The Economics of Technological Change, “Scientific American, 214, 4, 25 (1966). **   In fact, iron and steel output plunged sharply in 1958 in the course of a brief recession. It was still slightly higher than in 1947, however, and was growing again by 1959.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering the bill of materials consumed by each industry. This development comes from interplay between keenly competitive refinement in the qualities of materials and design backward from end-use specifications.” Industrial Research and Development. Accurate figures are not available for materials research and development in industry. Data for industrial research and development in general (Table 9) indicate that “All Industries” planned a 4 percent increase in spending in 1972 including federally-funded industrial research and development. The metals-producing industries—steel, nonferrous metals, fabricated metals—were expected to remain essentially level in 1971–72 in constant dollars. This would have meant an 8 to 10 percent decrease in research and development actually performed because of rising costs. Decreases in work performed were also indicated in paper and in stone, clay, and glass. “All Manufacturing” showed an estimated increase of only 2 percent in 1972, again amounting to a decrease in research and development actually performed. Even in high technologies like aerospace (no change in 1972) and electrical machinery and communications (up to 2 percent), research and development has not kept up with rising costs. Industrial research and development as a percentage of sales (Table 10) held level or declined in 1972 in all areas except aerospace. Federally funded research and development in All Manufacturing (Table 11) is declining, both in dollars and as a percentage of total industrial research and development. More recent figures (Table 12) show a brightening picture for company-funded research and development, although substantial differences exist among individual industries. Spending on basic research

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering TABLE 9 Industrial Research and Development (Includes federally funded industrial R&D)   Expenditures Change   1970 Est. Planned     Actual 1971 1972 1975 1971–72 1972–75   (Millions) (Percent) Steel $ 131 $ 122 $ 132 $ 149 8 13 Nonferrous Metals 134 165 155 234 –6 51 Machinery 1,727 1,831 1,923 2,173 5 13 Electrical Machinery & Communications 4,324 4,410 4,498 5,353 2 19 Aerospace 5,173 4,914 4,914 5,061 0 7 Autos, Trucks & Parts & Other Transportation Equipment 1,475 1,475 1,504 1,609 2 7 Fabricated Metals & Ordnance 183 176 183 210 4 15 Professional & Scientific Instruments 694 756 824 972 9 18 Lumber & Furniture 24 31 36 38 16 6 Chemicals 1,809 1,827 1,882 2,145 3 14 Paper 119 133 133 166 0 25 Rubber Products 238 281 295 336 5 12 Stone, Clay & Glass 188 169 169 198 0 17 Petroleum Products 608 492 522 606 6 16 Food & Beverages 198 208 225 263 8 17 Textile Mill Products & Apparel 64 60 66 81 10 23 Other Manufacturing 98 117 124 161 6 30 ALL MANUFACTURING 17,187 17,167 17,585 19,755 2 12 Nonmanufacturing 669 723 1,063 1,711 47 61 ALL INDUSTRIES 17,856 17,890 18,648 21,466 4 15   Source: National Science Foundation (1972).

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering TABLE 10 Industrial Research and Development as Percent of Salesa   1970 1971 1972b 1975b Steel .34% .31% .28% .26% Nonferrous Metals .76 .90 .79 .93 Electrical Machinery 8.51 8.17 7.72 7.23 Machinery, Other 3.08 3.08 2.96 2.61 Aerospace 19.02 20.05 20.88 17.92 Autos, Trucks & Parts & Other Transportation Equipment 2.73 2.23 2.05 1.71 Stone, Clay & Glass 1.06 .81 .74 .70 Fabricated Metals .44 .41 .40 .37 Instruments 5.71 6.39 6.27 5.52 Chemicals 3.71 3.54 3.41 3.16 Paper .74 .51 .47 .45 Rubber 1.36 1.49 1.43 1.34 Petroleum 2.29 1.76 1.73 1.66 Textiles .29 .26 .26 .24 Food & Beverages .20 .20 .20 .19 Other Manufacturing .13 .14 .14 .13 ALL MANUFACTURING 2.63% 2.47% 2.32% 2.08% a Sales figures are based on company data classified by major product line. b 1972 estimated; 1975 planned. Source: 1972 McGraw-Hill Survey of Industry Research and Development.

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering TABLE 11 Federally Financed Industrial Research and Development (Amounts and percent of total R&D spending by industry)   1971 1972b 1975 INDUSTRY Percent Million Dollars Percent Million Dollars Percent Million Dollars Steel   a   a   a Nonferrous Metals 5% $ 8 6% $ 9 6% $ 14 Machinery 12 220 10 192 8 174 Electrical Machinery & Communications 50 2,205 48 2,159 42 2,248 Aerospace 80 3,931 76 3,735 72 3,644 Autos, Trucks & Parts & Other Transportation 13 192 12 180 10 161 Fabricated Metals & Ordnance 3 5 3 5 3 6 Professional & Scientific Instruments 25 189 23 190 21 204 Lumber & Furniture   a   a   a Chemicals 10 183 10 188 11 236 Paper 1 1 1 1 1 2 Rubber Products 15 42 14 41 12 40 Petroleum Products 5 25 5 26 5 30 Food & Beverages 1 2 1 2 1 3 Textile Mill Products & Apparel   a   a   a Other Manufacturing   a   a   a ALL MANUFACTURING 41% $7,008 38% $6,731 34% $6,770 Nonmanufacturing 68 492 65 691 60 1,027 ALL INDUSTRIES 42% $7,500 40% $.7,422 36% $7,797 a Less than $500,000 b 1972 estimated; 1975 planned. Source: National Science Foundation (1972).

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering TABLE 12 Company-Funded Industrial Research and Development (Millions)   Total R & D Basic Research   1971 1972 1975 (Est.) 1971 1972 1975 (Est.) All Industries $10,643 $11,400 $13,950 $ 494 $ 520 $ 650 Drugs & Medicine 505 560 750 95 105 140 Industrial Chemicals 864 890 1,025 100 105 125 Petroleum 488 495 525 22 23 25 Electrical Equipment 2,230 2,400 3,000 109 115 145 Aircraft & Missiles 1,012 975 1,150 34 30 40 All Other 5,544 6,080 7,500 134 142 175   Source: National Science Foundation (1973).

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering in “All Industries” is projected to rise 25 percent in 1972–75, to $650 million; spending on research and development overall is expected to rise 22 percent in the same period, to just under $14 billion. The source of these figures, the National Science Foundation, notes the changing nature of industrial basic research. Companies generally are shifting toward “shorter-term, more relevant, and hence more economically-justifiable projects.” Need for Research and Development. Industry in this country and abroad has produced many of the outstanding achievements of materials science and engineering. They include nylon; the transistor; the high-field superconductor; the laser; phosphors for television, radar, and fluorescent lamps; high-strength magnetic alloys; magnetic ferrites; and polyethylene. These developments occurred in industries that conducted long-range research to expand the basic knowledge on which the industry ultimately relied. By thus supplementing their experience-based approach to materials research and development, these industries established technological leadership for themselves and for their countries. The resulting cumulative national payoff, though difficult to measure, is substantial. Our current shift from aerospace, atomic energy, and defense toward more civilian-oriented technologies offers industry a wide variety of fresh technical challenges: in the environment, in energy, in the quality and safety of consumer goods. Many such challenges will be met only with the help of sustained basic and applied research. Yet industry has been cutting back its relatively basic programs in the

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering past few years. The science-intensive industries have retrenched significantly; the experience-based industries in many cases have virtually eliminated what little basic research they were doing. Competitive pressures and the cost of research and development are rising steadily. A not-uncommon view is that the penalties of failure in research and development and the liability of high engineering risk have grown too great, while the rewards of success and the achievement of advanced product performance are too easily appropriated by others. Some companies now are reluctant to undertake programs that do not promise to begin to pay for themselves in 5 to 10 years at the most. The payoff period for basic research in materials, in contrast, although it tends to be shorter than in other areas, may sometimes exceed 10 years. A company that is not a technological leader may find that new technology is obtained more sensibly from other companies, by cross-licensing or by royalty agreements. But the company striving to achieve or maintain technical leadership will find a balanced research and development program essential to its success. More broadly, were basic research in materials science and engineering to be eliminated, the rate of introduction of new technology might not slow noticeably for several years. But then the nation’s capability would decline—precipitously in some high-technology areas. The country could sink to a seriously inferior position internationally in 10 to 20 years. Many industrial managements and, perhaps, the general public are not prepared to wait that long for the fruits of research. But industry should recognize more widely, we believe, that research in materials characteristically has

OCR for page 22
Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering returned good value and that the payoff is more assured than in many other fields. Progress in materials may not depend on public support to the same extent as does progress in astronomy, let us say, but for government, as for industry, materials science and engineering represents a sound investment. As in other fields, the decisions to be made often relate to the appropriate roles of government and private initiative in undertaking research. These can be hard decisions, but they must be made.