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Polymer Science and Engineering: The Shifting Research Frontiers
Recommendation 2: To expand the technology base and secure for the nation the benefits of research at the frontiers, the committee recommends that researchers and funders give high priority to work that strengthens the interface between polymer science and engineering and the many areas, such as medicine and electronics, in which it is applied.
Attention to Supporting High-Priority Frontier Research Areas
Findings and Conclusions: Scientific and technological progress during the 1980s has created rich opportunities for research in polymer science and engineering. The potential is great for future developments that will strongly contribute to areas of national concern.
Recommendation 3: The committee recommends high priority for support of research and education in the following frontier areas:
Interdisciplinary investigations of polymer surfaces and interfaces, including studies to increase understanding of chemical reactions that take place at surfaces and research to enable making smaller structures, thin films, and nanophase materials that have the same scale as the morphological features of polymers;
Synthesis of new polymers and polymeric materials, including methods that precisely control the structure of polymers, biosynthesis, catalysis, and environmentally benign synthesis;
New methods for processing and manufacturing materials, including computer-assisted design of processing and on-line process control;
Characterization of polymers and development of new methods (including, new techniques in microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging) to aid visualization and understanding of polymer properties; and
Theory including modeling, statistical mechanics, and molecular dynamics studies that take advantage of the unprecedented computing power available now and in the foreseeable future. These methods will allow modeling of complex processing operations, prediction of mechanical behavior and failure, calculation of thermodynamic and time-dependent properties, and the design of molecules capable of highly specific molecular recognition.
Further Study of Environmental Issues Related to Materials
Findings and Conclusions: Growing national concern about protecting Earth's resources and the need for sound scientific understanding as a foundation for nonadversarial, constructive environmental legislation present both challenges and opportunities for polymer science and engineering. Increasingly, technical progress in polymer science and engineering is driven by environmental considerations. For example, the environmental impact of using polymeric materials