Synthesis and processing is an element of materials science and engineering offering great promise as new techniques for the preparation of materials enable nearly atom-by-atom synthetic flexibility. It is an element of special importance also, because it bears directly on questions of industrial productivity and international competitiveness. However, the United States suffers from a serious weakness in synthesis and processing, particularly in that aspect required to translate scientific promise into commercial success: process technology.
Structure and composition can now be characterized with unprecedented accuracy and resolution. The challenge is to give practitioners of materials science and engineering broad access to the increasingly expensive equipment—including major national facilities—required to perform this characterization.
Unprecedented variability of materials properties is now available in new materials as a result of research in the areas of synthesis and processing and of properties, offering designers almost unlimited variability in design choices. Often, use of such new materials is limited by the lack of evaluated design data on their properties.
The performance of materials in actual systems depends on their response to the combined stimuli of stress in various forms, including mechanical and electromagnetic stress. The integration of understanding about materials performance and the design of devices and systems for full life cycles is an emerging phenomenon in industry that needs to be reflected in programs at universities and federal laboratories—where only limited activities can be identified today.
Instrumentation for characterization and processing of materials is an increasingly important issue in materials science and engineering. Replacement of aging equipment, acquisition of new equipment, particularly for research on process technology, and funding for research on and development of new equipment are areas that deserve increased attention by funding agencies.
Analysis and modeling find application in each of the four elements of materials science and engineering. High-speed computation has ushered in a new era in the use of these techniques, from the design of new materials to their ultimate use in products. Significant improvements in quality, reliability, and economy are the promise offered by increased application of analysis and modeling to all phases of materials science and engineering.