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technologies has led to the current U.S. leadership in global computing and communications. Although the relationship is difficult to measure quantitatively, there is a consensus among economists that advances in technology have been the main driver of economic growth over the past 60 years.1

In this report, the committee looks ahead to ask: What are the prospects for CMMP in the early part of the 21st century?

As the demands of a growing world population increase, there has never been a greater need for sustainable technological alternatives to the depletion of Earth’s nonrenewable resources. As the magnitude and urgency of this and other societal problems become increasingly evident, clear challenges and opportunities emerge for CMMP research worldwide. These demand a substantial and focused effort that will stimulate lively competition and the development of new ideas. At home, the United States remains a leader in CMMP, but its premier position is in jeopardy. With the gradual maturing of information technology, industrial research investments, once aimed at semiconductor materials and devices, have shifted toward software and services. With many U.S. industrial laboratories focused on such shorter-term goals, there is concern that the next great revolution in technology will be triggered by research developments off-shore. Certainly the decline in industrial materials research has limited the ability of U.S. industry to respond quickly to new developments. For example, failure to maintain strength in materials synthesis and crystal growth has led the United States to depend on other countries, especially Japan, for high-quality samples for investigation. Meanwhile, other parts of the world are investing heavily in research and development. Without adequate federal and private investment in basic research, U.S. leadership in CMMP is unlikely to survive.

The committee has identified eight important challenges facing CMMP researchers in the coming decades, including several that have major relevance to other fields. Meeting these challenges will lead to significant advances in both fundamental science and materials-based technology. The challenges are to address the following questions:

1. How do complex phenomena emerge from simple ingredients?

Most materials are made of simple, well-understood constituents, and yet their aggregate behaviors are stunningly diverse and often deeply mysterious. This is a direct result of the complexity of large systems. Just as a crowd can act in ways uncharacteristic of any individual within it, surprising emergent phenomena are also seen in collections of electrons, molecules, or even familiar objects such as grains of sand. For example, sand can be poured like water from a bucket, but unlike any liquid it also supports our weight when we walk on the beach. In the fractional quantum Hall state, a bizarre liquid state of electrons, an added electron will break up into new particles, each of which carries a precise fraction of the charge of the original electron. In a superconductor, an electrical current can flow indefinitely without decaying. These are impossible feats for individual electrons. The


National Academy of Sciences, National Academof Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, prepublication, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006, pp. 2-7.

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