mance characteristics do not necessarily differentiate militarily critical use from commercial use. It would be more useful to control the design of special, military-application materials rather than basic, commodity materials. In some instances, however, controls on the basic material have been maintained while the manufacturing process and end product that use the material have been decontrolled (e.g., polysilicon is controlled but personal computers have been decontrolled).

Controlling the export of the material itself does not necessarily control the militarily critical application. For example, canopies for jet aircraft, which can be made from polycarbonate sheet, are controlled as a munitions item. The polycarbonate sheet is controlled for export by the Commerce Department. Although only a certain quality sheet is used, it is the process for forming it into the canopy, not the material itself, that is complicated and protected, even in the United States, for proprietary reasons. In fact, such factors as fabrication and processing techniques and ingredient percentages are closely guarded as trade secrets, but the basic physical properties and contents of advanced materials are revealed in U.S. patents. Given the market implications, materials firms are more likely to reveal specific contents and processing techniques in patents for materials that may be reverse engineered than in patents for materials for which there is little chance of reverse engineering. Thus, export controls on advanced materials may be somewhat redundant in that the most critical aspects of advanced materials fabrication are either closely guarded as trade secrets or published in patent applications.


Military funding has been a principal driver in advanced materials R&D since World War II. Significant advances in structural and electronic materials can be traced to DoD funding. Given cuts in military spending, however, defense-related incentives for continued development of an advanced materials technology base are likely to decline. This is particularly important to the U.S. materials industry, because much of the foreign investment in U.S. materials firms in the 1980s reflected an effort to participate in the development of new materials technologies funded by U.S. defense spending. For example, Imperial Chemical Industries purchased the Fiberite and LNP Engineering Plastics divisions from Beatrice in 1985 to gain access to both military and commercial aerospace developments involving advanced composite systems and to gain an avenue through which to introduce its polyetheretherketone (PEEK) thermoplastic resins into U.S. defense programs.

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