4

BENCHMARKING RESULTS

4.1. Approach

The approach taken by the Panel to assess the strength of the field of materials research in the United States relative to other countries was as follows:

  • By communicating with colleagues in the United States and abroad, panel members scripted the content of a fictitious international conference covering the nine subfields of materials science and engineering. Panel members asked colleagues to identify 5 or 6 “hot topics” in each subfield and 8 to 10 of the very best people in the world working in each topical area.

  • The top 3–4 awards and prizes given in each area and their recipients for the past five years were identified.

  • The most significant advances in materials science and engineering research of the past five years were identified.

  • Assessments of the state of research in each topical area in the United States compared with that of other nations were solicited.

  • The leading journals or other periodicals that could be used as references for the assessment were identified.

The information was used to construct tables that characterize the relative position of the United States in each of 9 subfields now and in the future (Appendix B). The first half of each table ranks the current US position relative to the world materials community for each subfield. A scoring system, with 1 representing “forefront”, 3 representing “among world leaders”, and 5 representing “behind world leaders”, was used. The second half of each table is an assessment of the likely future position of the United States relative to the world materials community. Here 1 represents “gaining or extending”, 3 represents “maintaining”, and 5 represents “losing”. Although the conference approach does not constitute a systematic assessment and is somewhat subjective, it is the same approach leaders of the field would use to organize world conferences to feature the “best of the best.” And in conducting this analysis, panel members relied not only on their own judgment but that of their colleagues.

A report from the United Kingdom (UK 1997) compared by field and country the number of total publications and the relative citation impact. The top 5 countries for the materials science field by total citations are



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH 4 BENCHMARKING RESULTS 4.1. Approach The approach taken by the Panel to assess the strength of the field of materials research in the United States relative to other countries was as follows: By communicating with colleagues in the United States and abroad, panel members scripted the content of a fictitious international conference covering the nine subfields of materials science and engineering. Panel members asked colleagues to identify 5 or 6 “hot topics” in each subfield and 8 to 10 of the very best people in the world working in each topical area. The top 3–4 awards and prizes given in each area and their recipients for the past five years were identified. The most significant advances in materials science and engineering research of the past five years were identified. Assessments of the state of research in each topical area in the United States compared with that of other nations were solicited. The leading journals or other periodicals that could be used as references for the assessment were identified. The information was used to construct tables that characterize the relative position of the United States in each of 9 subfields now and in the future (Appendix B). The first half of each table ranks the current US position relative to the world materials community for each subfield. A scoring system, with 1 representing “forefront”, 3 representing “among world leaders”, and 5 representing “behind world leaders”, was used. The second half of each table is an assessment of the likely future position of the United States relative to the world materials community. Here 1 represents “gaining or extending”, 3 represents “maintaining”, and 5 represents “losing”. Although the conference approach does not constitute a systematic assessment and is somewhat subjective, it is the same approach leaders of the field would use to organize world conferences to feature the “best of the best.” And in conducting this analysis, panel members relied not only on their own judgment but that of their colleagues. A report from the United Kingdom (UK 1997) compared by field and country the number of total publications and the relative citation impact. The top 5 countries for the materials science field by total citations are

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH United States Japan Germany United Kingdom France The measure used in the United Kingdom report, “relative citation impact”, is the country's share of the world's citations in the field, divided by its share of world publications in the field. It can be thought of as a comparison of a country' s citation rate for a particular field with the world's citation rate for the field. A relative citation impact greater than 1 shows that the country's rate for the field is higher than the world's. According to the report, it is a measure of both the influence and the visibility of a country's research (as disseminated through publications) and it gives some indication of the quality of the average paper. The top 5 countries by relative citation index are United States Denmark Netherlands Israel Switzerland 4.2. Assessment of Current Leadership US research in materials science and engineering is strong, based on assessment of the subfields. Across subfields, US researchers are among the world leaders. Within subfields there are a few topical areas in which the United States is at the forefront and a few topical areas where the US has little presence or is behind the world leaders. (A general example of the latter is in materials synthesis and processing, where greater scientific emphasis is needed here. Europe is probably ahead in synthesis, and Japan leads in processing. If US universities were to focus research more on “green” processing for sustainable development, US industry could benefit.) For most subfields and topics, however, the United States ranks among world leaders. Comments on the analysis of each of the subfields are found below. 4.2.1. Biomaterials The subfield of biomaterials involves at least four classes: synthetic or modified natural materials used in medicine and biology; natural materials or artificial materials that emulate natural materials; “smart” materials, such as those that respond to a specific stimulus; and hybrid materials consisting of synthetic and living cellular components. Much of the research in biomaterials originated in the United States, and the country still maintains an intellectual lead in most areas, particularly basic research. This is suggested by the number of US keynote and plenary speakers at international conferences and by the number of US scientists who receive major awards in the field. The biomaterials industry contributes a

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH positive balance of payments for the United States. The applications of biomaterials also helps the US economy by reducing the cost of health care. The factors that influence US performance in biomaterials include a strong basic research organization that offers graduate and postdoctoral students opportunities to study, the ethnic diversity in our graduate and postdoctoral student populations, strong journals, a strong medical device industry, venture capital–commercialization potential, and the sheer number of researchers in the field. The current hot topics are in tissue engineering, protein analogues, molecular architecture, biomimetics (bone-like material), contemporary diagnostic systems, advanced controlled-release systems, and bone materials. The United States is currently at the forefront in tissue engineering, protein analogues, and advanced controlled-release systems. It is among the world leaders in all other areas. The United States is seeing strong competition from Germany and Japan in molecular architecture. There are some areas of biomaterials research in which the United States no longer is the clear leader: hydrogels, proteins at interfaces, artificial hearts, surface molecular engineering sensors, and diagnostics. 4.2.2. Ceramics Most consumers think of “ceramics” as freezer-to-oven cookware—this wide application for glass ceramics is possible because of the materials' low expansion coefficient and ability to withstand a range of temperatures without cracking. There have been only a few applications for tailored ceramics based on their thermostructural and electromechanical properties because of their relatively high cost and underdeveloped design and reliability protocols. The most significant application has been as electronic substrates (mostly alumina), as well as some commercialization of SiC and Si3N4. The latter are being used as wear components in the industrial sector and as valves and bearings primarily in aerospace applications. Further implementation is expected to be controlled primarily by the success of initiatives that reduce the manufacturing cost. Although research funding in this area is declining worldwide, new areas of activity are providing important opportunities for basic research that should be exploited if the United States is to remain in the forefront. Four of these are as follows: The use of Microeclectromechanical systems (MEMS) based mini-heat engines, made from SiC, as small high-power-density energy sources constitute an exciting initiative. For example, gas turbine engines, rocket engines, and coolers about a centimeter in diameter and a few millimeters thick that should produce power and pump heat in the 10–100 W range could be made using MEMS technology. Ceramics appear to be perfect for this implementation because the small component size mitigates the weakest-link nature of ceramics' mechanical strength. Recently discovered single-crystal ferroelectrics offer a completely new range of options as actuators and capacitors and in robotics. High thermal conductivity, low-expansion dielectrics, such as AlN, needed for heat dissipation in power electronics, are being developed by industry with minimal basic research.

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH High-performance films and coatings for thermal protection (ZrO2 alloys), lubrication and durability (diamondlike coatings, TiN), and implants (hydroxyapetite), among other uses, are being exploited by US industry. An invigorated academic effort is needed in films and coatings. The United States and Japan share leadership in ceramics: Japan dominates in manufacturing technology, and the United States leads in basic research. There are also strong research activities in Germany. In the field of functional–electronic ceramics, the United States is among the world leaders in all areas other than integrated micromagnetics; Japan is the clear leader there. Current forefront areas include microwave dielectrics, sol-gel-derived materials, self-assembled materials, thin-film synthesis, three dimensional microporous silicates, multilayer ferrite processing, and integrated micromagnetics on silicon. Although US research in ceramics is in a world leadership position, the companies that capitalize on that research are Japanese-owned. This question is the subject of another COSEPUP study to be released later this year. 4.2.3. Composites The United States has been a leader in the development of polymer, metal, and ceramic matrix composites over the past 30 years. Vigorous efforts in France and Japan have matched those here, in some cases. There also have been several important discoveries in the United Kingdom. The activity has mostly found application in aerospace and has been supported almost exclusively by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). More recently, there has been significant activity in the automotive and energy sectors, with Department of Energy (DOE) support. Federal support for this research at universities has essentially stopped, because of changing DOD, DOE, and NASA priorities. The remaining, relatively small academic efforts in academia are supported largely by industry, are very applied, and have short-term goals. Thus, continued leadership in this field is uncertain. In polymer composites, a new approach to design and manufacturing that cuts costs has begun to replace the “black aluminum” approach. The “black aluminum” method, used for decades to design polymer composites, is a design protocol that treats composites as if they were metals, using the same types of data and the same design rules. The problem with this approach is that the real advantages that could accrue to using composites are negated at the outset. This has been done for decades because of conservatism. Only now are new design approaches that take advantage of the attributes of composites (and as anisotropy, integrated structures) being implemented. The new method uses low-temperature-curing polymers for matrices. Electron beams achieve homogeneous curing. This combination produces fewer distortions and enables the manufacturing of large integral components. There are significant opportunities for new basic research as the technology progresses in industry. These include the development of low-temperature-curing polymers with greater toughness and higher glass transition temperatures and design-and-testing protocols explicitly relevant to large integral components along with included subelements.

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH Ceramic matrix composites are important for the aerospace and energy sectors. Industry activity is appreciable; federal support comes primarily from NASA and DOE. There are exciting new developments in all-oxide composites that could survive high temperatures in aggressive environments. The basic research needed to support the development and use of these materials includes studies of oxide–oxide bonding, creep, internal friction, and delamination. The issues are addressed in the new National Materials Advisory Board report, Advanced Fibers for High Temperature Ceramic Composites (NRC 1997). Major shifts in emphasis are occurring in research on metal matrix composites because of new applications in the aerospace, communications, electronics, and automotive industries. These applications are primarily based on aluminum alloys reinforced with SiC or Al2O3, as particles, whiskers, or fibers. These materials have become less expensive to produce, they are fairly rigid (an advantage when combined with acceptable toughness and ductility), and have high fatigue thresholds. They are useful in electronic applications because of their low thermal expansion coefficients and high thermal conductivity. The effort to develop in titanium matrix composites reinforced with SiC fibers has nearly stopped in the United States because of the great expense involved. Research continues in Japan, China, and the United Kingdom. With the much-diminished DOD emphasis on structural materials, basic research on composites has decreased dramatically in the past 2 years. This is happening as new applications are emerging and new opportunities have arisen for basic research. The exception is in smart materials and systems. Here, the polymer composite is a host for sensors and actuators that enable shape changes to be accomplished with rapid response times. A major effort is continuing in this area in the United States. Current hot topics in research include smart composites that incorporate sensors and actuators, polymer matrices for ambient curing (for example with electron beams), the manufacture of large integrated components, high-temperature oxide materials, the tailored use of preferred crystallographic textures, and particle-reinforced alloys. In this last area, there is an opportunity to extend the crack-arresting concepts that have been applied to metal matrix composites to other materials, particularly titanium alloys, and to elucidate at a fundamental level how improved fatigue performance can be achieved by reinforcement. 4.2.4. Magnetic Materials Research on magnetism and magnetic materials, which in the US has been strongly influenced by applications, has declined since the 1970s. There were major breakthroughs in hard and soft magnetic materials (Allied developed soft amorphous materials and General Motors and Sumitomo developed neodymium–iron–boron permanent magnets), but markets were not large enough to support a large research community. In Europe and Japan, on the other hand, basic research in dilute magnetic alloys and critical phenomena sustained an interest in magnetism and led to investment in the necessary support facilities, such as neutron sources and high magnetic fields. Two of the hot areas of recording today, giant magnetoresistance and spin-dependent tunneling, were discovered in France. In the 1980s a “killer application” developed in the United States—digital magnetic recording for computer systems. This is now more than a $50 billion industry. The technology was developed mainly at IBM, and US companies such as IBM, Seagate, and Quantum are the

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH market leaders. Although magnetic studies largely disappeared from US universities in the 1970s, there has been a concerted effort over the past 2 decades to rebuild interest. There are now several centers for magnetic materials study as part of engineering schools, and basic research efforts are small but growing. One measure of US participation in magnetic materials research is the annual conference on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials. Figure 4.1 shows that, since 1989, the United States has contributed a consistent and respectable percentage of papers to this conference. Figure 4.1 Papers submitted and accepted for Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Annual Conferences, 1989-1996 Source: Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Conference Giant magnetoresistance is being used as the reading element in high-density recording heads through a structure known as a spin valve, which consists of two thin magnetic films with different coercivites separated by a very thin (20Å) conductor. The application of spin valve heads requires a fundamental understanding of the magnetic interactions within and between the films. Thus, the area of magnetic interfaces is also hot. How these materials behave with temperature and their corrosion resistance are active areas of research. Large magnetoresistance effects have been observed in manganese-oxide perovskites. The effect is so large, it is called “colossal” magnetoresistance. Although the recording community does not believe these materials will compete with spin valves, their structural similarities to high-temperature superconductors has generated interest in the United States and abroad. The recent discovery of giant magnetostriction in a new class of materials–shape memory alloys that are magnetic–promises to produce another hot area. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Maryland have observed magnetostriction of 1.2% in single crystal, prestressed NiMnGa. These materials could replace piezoelectrics in many applications where a more robust material and larger strain is required. They already appear superior to the rare-earth-containing materials such as Terfenol.

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH The current forefront topics in magnetic materials are nanostructures, colossal magnetoresistance, magnetic multilayers including magnetic properties of thin layers (first-principles calculations and micromagnetics), magnetic coupling between layers (anisotropic exchange and biquadratic exchange), and transport (giant magnetoresistance and tunneling). Disk storage has become the driver for research in the United States, and university centers are being developed. Although the United States is at the forefront in the device area, solid basic research is being done at centers elsewhere. 4.2.5. Metals The performance of almost any product is limited by the materials of which it is made, and in many products, space vehicles, for example, the value of overcoming performance barriers is quite high. In automobiles, the value of improved performance is less well understood, but is currently motivated by energy efficiency targets while constrained by cost. These considerations become important as more of the drive for improved materials performance comes from industry sectors other than defense. The cost and time required to develop and deploy new materials are a major problem regardless of the application or industry. Product development times have been and will continue to be dramatically shortened, but the time it takes to develop new materials development has not been reduced significantly, and this creates a barrier to achieving optimum final product performance. One key to solving the cost and time constraints for materials development is computational materials science and engineering. Modeling, simulation, and experimentation are used to study Materials synthesis; Microstructure evolution (precipitation, recrystallization, phase transformation, defect structures, grain boundaries); Plastic deformation behavior; Materials performance and properties (strength, ductility, fracture toughness, formability, fatigue, corrosion/durability); Complex processing methods (chemical, thermal, and mechanical processing of materials) *; and Component and assembly performance. This list of topics is sometimes called the structure–process–product continuum. The research aims at quantitative explanations of the relationships between processing and structure, between structure and properties, and between materials properties and product performance. Yet another way to describe this is the integration of dimensional scales—from atomic clusters to *Complex processing methods include net shape processes such as isothermal –superplstic forming and computer-aided precision casting and machining, where laser and electron beams often are used as cutting tools. Net shape isothermal–superplastic forming is the most typical example of “complex processing.” Recently, various high-temperature components, such as turbine disks have been produced from nickel-based superalloy powders by net shape isothermal–superplastic forming.

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH final products—and the integration of models of materials behavior, materials processing, and materials product performance to allow concurrent design of products, materials (composition and structure), and manufacturing processes. The current hot topics in this subfield are surface treatments, net shape processes, intermetallics and other high-temperature alloys, theory and modeling, magnetoresistance, hydrogen-absorbing materials, bulk amorphous materials, quasicrystalline materials, nanostructured materials, and cellular metals. The United States is especially strong in intermetallics, theory and modeling, and advanced processing of metallic alloys to net shape. The United States is in a leadership position in most of these subfields; however, there is significant capability in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan. There are also significant resources in Eastern Europe and Russia, but they are not necessarily well-funded and they are not as well known. The United States is lagging in research on hydrogen-absorbing materials; Germany and Japan have a strong position. Battery development for applications in computers and motor vehicles is a pull for electrode research and development. Bulk glass-forming alloys have been studied in the United States, but intensive work also is going on in Japan. The United States is at the forefront of theory and modeling of metals. The topical areas of current activity in theory and modeling include atomic bonding, crystal structure, microstructure evolution phase diagrams, and phase transformations. Good work is going on in Europe, Japan, and the United States on quantitative explanations and modeling of the plastic deformation of metals. 4.2.6. Electronic and Optical-Photonic Materials Electronic materials encompass a broad field, with semiconductors obviously at the center. However, metals, dielectrics, ceramics and polymers also are in this group. In terms of functional applications, which are process intensive, these materials are found in even more diverse areas: lithography, interconnect, packaging, display and storage materials. Generally the United States is the world leader in most of these subfields and a close competitor in others. In the display subfield, the United States is behind Japan in liquid crystals and wide-gap III-V compounds (GaN). In liquid crystals, the United States is unlikely to catch up to Japan. In the case of flat-panel displays, for example, because US industry has less than 10% of the market (most displays come from Japan with a growing number from Korea and Taiwan), future industrial research and development is likely to be limited. In wide-gap III-V compounds, the United States has made a major investment to try to close this lead, and the lead in Japan is expected to diminish over time. Semiconductors have been an important subject of US materials science and engineering since the invention of the transistor and the subsequent progress made in the quality and purity of silicon and germanium. The US also led in developing compound semiconductors (GaAs) for optical, electronic and communication applications, although these materials were first formally recognized in Germany. *As the synthesizing and processing technologies of basic materials matured, improvements were incremental and manufacturers profit margins declined. Materials suppliers consolidated and they have moved offshore, mostly to Far East Asia. *III-V Compounds, such as GaAs, were first recognized in Germany as intermetallic semiconductors (Welker in 1952). Subsequent development done worldwide, with the United States at the lead. The injection laser was developed by several US groups (Hall, Nathan, Quist and Holonyak, all in 1962). The heterojunction laser was developed by Russian researchers (for example, Alferov 1967).

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH With the approach of the anticipated limit for conventional technologies in the silicon-based electronics industry, great emphasis was placed on clever design and processing and on advanced lithography. Attention also was paid to more innovative considerations in the use of silicon on insulators, silicon–germanium alloys, low-loss dielectrics, and high-conductivity metal interconnects. Again, the United States and Japan lead the field in these areas. One exciting development in recent years is in the area of nanostructures. This started with the epitaxial and vapor phase growth of semiconductor quantum layers and now includes many material systems: self-organized particles, clusters, and tubes; caged ensembles; porous solids and surfaces; and colloidal crystallites. With feature sizes of just nanometers, these materials exhibit unusual electronic and optical properties that offer enormous opportunities in materials research and technological applications. Most of the systems were developed in the United States, which has largely maintained its leadership despite worldwide growth in research. A word of caution is called for, however. Many of the central research laboratories of the large industrial corporations initiated and carried out studies in these subfields. The redirection from basic to applied research and technology, although accelerating the US innovation process, is shifting future exploratory research to universities. Optical–photonics materials research will provide many opportunities for exploring the most fundamental aspects of materials. Examining optical phenomena, such as imaging, holographic storage, electro–optic and photorefractive effects, optical fiber nonlinearities, and complete modeling of optical–electronic integrated circuits are subjects of great interest. Just as past exploratory materials research uncovered soliton and other phenomena, the current basic research being devoted around the globe to the fabrication and theoretical modeling of photonic bandgap materials should yield exciting and unexpected results. Wavelength-selectable, blue-green, all-solid-state, and microlasers are internationally hot topics. Recent breakthroughs in photonic bandgap and lattice engineering, and in atomic layer epitaxy, provide unprecedented possibilities for leaps in device and component research. These materials-processing methods also should to contribute to even more rapid progress in electronic–photonic integration. Much also is expected from MEM research, which will continue to provide a powerful tool for miniaturization of mechanical systems. Organic materials have become the subject of exciting optical–photonic research. Organic lasers, organic light-emitting diodes, all-organic transistors, and plastic fibers are receiving global attention within small, focused research groups and also from larger development organizations. The United States and others are equivalent in these areas. The United States has established a substantial lead in another area—the fabrication of complex, optically functional surfaces, components, and devices using elastomers as starting materials. Polymeric replicas, patterned with microstructures on their surfaces, are fabricated and used to construct lenses, mirrors diffraction gratings, and photothermal detectors. The clear lead of the United States in this new area is not expected to persist. US competitiveness in photonics and microelectronics has been well served by the establishment of academic centers. Strong support for these facilities through the National Science Foundation is vital. US industrial–academic partnerships also are needed to advance the research required to win the global competition in optical networking. The United States is currently among the leaders or at the forefront in optical–photonic

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH and electronic materials. Forefront topics include wide direct-gap and wide indirect-gap semiconductors, wafer bonding, oxide confinement in vertical cavity surface emitting lasers, interconnects (copper and low-K dielectrics), engineered optical materials (periodically poled nonlinear optical materials and engineered organic and polymeric materials for nonlinear optics), nanostructured materials, magnetoresistive materials, holographic storage materials, photonic bandgap materials, and packaging. More information is available in a recent report from the NRC Committee on Optical Science and Engineering (COSE) entitled Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century (NRC, 1998). This report discusses the state of the optics industry and of research and education in optics, and identifies actions that could enhance the field's contribution to society and facilitate its technical development. 4.2.7. Superconducting Materials US scientists are in a strong leadership position in nearly all subtopical areas of superconducting materials, but they do not dominate in any. The United States has been at the forefront in elucidating fundamental physical properties and in developing the theory for Hi-temperature superconductors (HTSCs), although theory thus far has been unable to account for all verified experimental observations. In establishing the electronic structure of complex cuprate superconducting compounds, the United States is sharing its forefront position with Japan and Germany. The discovery of new superconducting materials around the world has involved as much luck as it has deliberate science-based research. Leadership in this area could shift rapidly when the next important compound is discovered. The United States has enjoyed leadership in the development of magnetic phase diagrams of HTSCs and in the modeling flux pinning and critical phenomena. However, Europe also has shown particular strength in statistical mechanical modeling and in the development of direct imaging techniques for delineating flux line patterns. A relative decline in the fraction of peer-reviewed papers in this field by US investigators is an indicator of the growing competition in basic research world wide. On the technological front, the United States and Japan appear to be neck-and-neck in most important development areas, especially in bulk superconducting cables, thin-film devices, instrumentation, and power equipment. In technologically important areas, however, it is difficult to assess the degree of US leadership; many advanced developments are being conducted as joint ventures between US companies and their partners in Europe and Japan. Also, many such important cutting-edge developments are closely held. Early successes in Japan with melt texturing and powder-in-tube processing are now being matched and perhaps exceeded in the United States, but these methods could be replaced by new approaches. For example, a major development in the US is the processing of long-length conductors based on the deposition of highly-textured YBCO on textured metal substrates. Leadership in this area could shift rapidly to the research who successfully replaces plasma laser deposition or evaporation with a low-cost, high-rate process involving metallorganic or chemical vapor deposition. This is an area in which industrial effort dominates in Japan; US industry developments are strongly coupled to work at the national laboratories. Leadership in the development of rare-earth HTSCs for levitation or energy storage applications is currently shared by the United States and Japan, with Japan in front based on successes with the Nd-123 system. Japan has targeted this area to replace low-temperature

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH superconducting magnets with trapped-field magnets for levitated-train designs. Electronic application of thin-film superconductors has enjoyed considerable success in the United States because of the strong interest in the use of HTSCs for radio frequency and microwave filters for communications. US leadership in this area has been largely aided by DOD investments in the development of HTSCs for military communications, sensing, and computing. Research challenges are in the development of phase-pure materials, processing issues, magnetic phase diagrams, electric current transport, and the modeling of transport and critical phenomena. A continuing challenge is the development of a successful comprehensive theory for high-temperature superconductivity. 4.2.8. Polymers In general, research in polymers is at an exciting stage, and the United States enjoys a strong world position in many areas. The field of polymers is broad and its foundations span from basic chemistry for synthesis to mechanical engineering for processing. Most early research, except some done in academic laboratories in Europe, was done by industry. The field continues to be dominated by chemists and chemical engineers and has only recently been brought under the umbrella of “materials” within the United States. This trend offers a great opportunity for multi-disciplinary research and education. Polymer research is done in many US universities, both within stand-alone departments and degree programs and by individual investigators who are often found in departments of chemistry or chemical engineering. Academic research in the United States compares well with the rest of the world, despite some powerful research institutions abroad: The Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany, for example, enjoys generous long-term funding. Many universities in Japan have strong centers of long standing, for example, at the University of Kyoto. Others are rapidly developing in China, Korea, Taiwan, and Brazil. University-based polymer research in the US scaled to commercial activity is small in comparison with many other university thrust areas. Leadership of the United States in polymer research is tied to developments in industry and the great economic importance of polymers. Several US companies have had centers of excellence in polymer research, and many products currently on the market were discovered and developed in these laboratories. These laboratories were the envy of the world, and they have been widely emulated. Industrial polymer research is still strong in the United States, but trends of downsizing and a shorter term focus are taking their toll on the rate of innovation; perhaps more so here than abroad. Among the hot topics is the revolution in the polyolefin industry with the advent of metallocene catalysts that permit unprecedented control of molecular structure and size. Large investments are being made in new manufacturing as a result of this research. The activity is global, but the United States is in a strong leadership position. There is strong research in multicomponent polymer systems around the world, and the United States is a leader. Much of the work is being done with strong university–industry interactions because of the important commercial value of such products. Other forefront topics are biosynthesis, free-radical polymerization, multicomponent systems such as ceramic–organic copolymers, and three-dimensional polymer dendrimers. Major growth areas for polymer applications are separation media, barrier coatings, and packaging; biomedical uses, such as drug delivery and implants; and

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH electronic–photonic applications, such as displays and resists. 4.2.9. Catalysts Catalysts are central to petroleum refining and chemical processing. They also are used widely in environmental protection technology. In the United States, the value of fuels and chemicals derived from catalysis is nearly 20% of the gross national product (CMR 1997). The annual global market for catalysts is $8 billion (Rothman 1997). There have been 3 advances in this field of great significance in the past decade: the development of shape-selective catalysts, the development of metallocene catalysts for polymerization, and the application of catalysts for automobile emission control. Shape-selective catalysis in microporous solids is established for many industrial processes in the chemical and petroleum sectors, and the search continues worldwide for new catalysts and applications. The remarkable advances in metallocene catalysts research in the United States now used for the precise control of polymer properties in US industry are spilling over to university-based activities worldwide. The area of environmental catalysis has matured in the past 20 years. New environmental regulations adopted here and in Europe during the past decade have created a need for focused research to support technology development. Catalysis work at industrial laboratories remains strong and significant, although somewhat reduced. The area most affected is basic catalysis research at corporate research centers. For example, there have been significant losses in the petroleum sector; corporate laboratories have been closed and basic catalysis research activities have not been transferred to other divisions of these companies. Numerous technical societies feature catalysis-related topics among their symposia, and stand-alone societies meet regularly worldwide. The North American Catalysis Society draws about 900 participants at its biannual meeting. About 40% of the papers submitted are from abroad; the European catalysis meetings typically have less than 10% US content. The base for all these meetings is work from university and industrial laboratories. Several “catalysis centers” have been organized at US universities, although they are not large activities and many have shrunk during the past two decades. The university base for catalyst research has become more diffused as the large university centers have declined in size and as small research groups have been formed at several other universities. Catalyst research, which is generally found in university chemistry and chemical engineering departments, has not benefited as significantly as have other areas of materials science by the migration of researchers from industry to university. Catalysis research is currently more prevalent in chemical engineering departments than it is in chemistry departments in the United States. In some cases, meaningful catalysis research is difficult to conduct in universities because of the laboratory requirements. The United States is, and will likely continue to be, among the world leaders in industrial practice—particularly in the area of selective alkane oxidation. Although strong and viable, the US industry is small, but it is also small in the rest of the world. Support for catalyst research by companies is not nationally driven; many companies are multinational. Companies locate the catalysts they need wherever they are found in the world. Published reviews of progress in catalytic technology in Japan and Europe provide detailed information of catalytic processes developed in these areas (Roth, 1990). Catalysis has been an area targeted for growth in most countries outside the United States

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH because of its importance to the industrial sector. European centers of catalysis have grown in recent years. For example, in 1996, the United Kingdom formed an institute to bring its chemical industry closer to academic research (EPSCoR 1996). Similar ventures are occurring in the Netherlands and across Europe. In Germany, funding for catalysis research is associated with the need to sustain development in the chemical industry. In Japan, it has been identified as the motor for green technologies, and increased funding is going to universities. Links between universities and industrial laboratories outside the United States have become stronger than in past years. Forefront topics in catalysis are selective oxidation, solid acid –base catalysis, novel catalyst characterization techniques, environmental catalysis (for emissions control, waste minimization, reduction of by-products, and evaluation of alternative feedstocks), asymmetric catalysis, and combinatorial catalysis.

OCR for page 51
INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH This page in the original is blank.