The ways in which crystal growth is intertwined with technology are many and varied, as seen by the contrast between the example of Si technology and that of the commercialization of single-crystal turbine blades. In the case of Si, pure material was required to lead to the understanding of the science and technology needed to develop commercial applications. In contrast, crystalline turbine blade commercialization was based on improvements in existing industrial processes. Commercial processes can and do benefit from the use of single crystals with significant economic consequence.
Beyond this, single-crystal research has been and continues to be the path to new science. Maintaining scientific leadership in the world demands ready access to the advanced materials from single-crystal synthesis. Advances in the science of crystal growth yield ever-increasing control over materials and their uses, as well as new uses enabled by such control.
These and many other examples illustrate a return on investment that can be economic or scientific, and often is both.
The world is entering a new age of materials and is gaining the ability to investigate, interrogate, and potentially control materials at a level approaching that of individual atoms. Single crystals are the stage on which the new capabilities play, and the ability to create these single crystals and then to produce them well is of primary scientific and technical concern. Not all materials are equal: some can be perfected much more effectively than others. The importance of a strong continuing search in the wide materials phase-space for ever-better functional materials cannot be overstated.