of ceramic superconductors, dislocation-free single crystals, and artificially structured materials. Another important thrust of basic processing research is to develop a fundamental understanding of kinetic phenomena involved in materials processing, to serve as the foundation for changes and improvements in processing. Examples of such phenomena are rheological behavior in die filling, atomistic mechanisms of crystal growth, atomistic mechanisms of removal of materials in machining, and mass transport mechanisms in consolidation processes.
The United States suffers from a serious weakness in synthesis and processing with respect to new materials, manufacturing technology, and education in materials science and engineering. In many areas, the synthesis and processing of materials have been emphasized less in government, industrial, and university laboratories in the United States than in laboratories of other countries. Not only does this sharply limit the techniques that can be brought to bear on problems in this area, but it also curbs opportunities for unexpected discoveries.
An important but often overlooked aspect of synthesis and processing advances is the continued development of new machinery and equipment for synthesis and processing. As discussed below in the section “Instrumentation,” research devoted to equipment development receives only limited support in the United States, with a commensurate loss of equipment markets to foreign competition. Notable examples in process technology include the markets for machine tools and semiconductor processing equipment. To ameliorate the flow of resources for manufacturing equipment to foreign markets, the United States needs to accelerate research on synthesis and processing equipment and to strengthen the manufacturing industry for this equipment. A strong machine and equipment component is essential to improving the synthesis and processing component of the technology base for any industry.
It is also important to improve the scientific foundations underlying U.S. manufacturing processes. Processing efficiency not only is essential to U.S. industrial competitiveness, but also poses many intellectual problems. Basic research directed at increasing the understanding of crystal growth, vapor deposition, sintering, phase transformations, rheology, and other generic processes key to manufacturing could have profound effects on national productivity. This research will be particularly valuable when it can be extended to the development of real-time process models that can be used in process control. In recent years, robust nondestructive sensors have been developed to measure materials properties during processing. For example, sensors are now available to check the thickness, grain size, and texture of thin-sheet-rolled metals as they are being processed. Figure 4.6 depicts a sensor that measures various properties of an aluminum rod during extrusion processing. The introduction of such sensors earlier in the process stream