nally, modeling of complex industrial processes aids in improving process reliability and control, and in reducing an important aspect of performance—the initial cost of the material or components. There is work done at macroscopic length scales in which the bulk properties of materials are used as inputs to models of manufacturing processes and performance. Historically, research in each of these three areas has been carried out by separate communities of scientists. However, modern developments are tending to blur the distinctions between these research areas.
The need for advanced analysis and modeling provides an especially clear argument in favor of unified support for materials research. For example, in the past it has sometimes been difficult for managers of engineering programs to support accurate experimental or theoretical investigations of simple model systems; both the models and the precision appeared to be irrelevant for technological purposes. At the same time, many such projects have seemed scientifically uninteresting in the absence of a technological motivation. It is now apparent, however, that the simulations needed for advanced applications may make no sense without scientific input. Carefully controlled measurements, critically evaluated data, and calculations are essential to test the basic assumptions being built into simulations of complex situations. Moreover, the problems often turn out to be unexpectedly challenging from a scientific point of view.
In the future, science-based numerical simulations in combination with new methods for storing, retrieving, and analyzing information may make it possible to optimize not only the properties of specific substances but also entire processes for turning raw materials into useful objects. Materials considerations are important throughout the life cycles of most products—from design through manufacturing to support and maintenance and, finally, to disposal or recycling. Significant improvements in quality, reliability, and economy might be realized at all stages of this cycle if quantitative models of processing and performance could be applied throughout this process.
Materials science and engineering deals with the synthesis and processing, structure and composition, properties, and performance of materials and with the interrelationships among these elements of the field. It encompasses all materials classes. To a degree unique among technical fields, it gains great strength from drawing on the full spectrum of science and engineering.
In evaluating the status of materials science and engineering, it is important to recognize not only that each of the elements of the field must be strong, but also that the elements of the field are increasingly interdependent. Only by viewing the field as a coherent whole can the interrelationships among its elements be distinguished and strengthened.