6

LIKELY FUTURE POSITIONS

6.1. Introduction

The likely future position of materials science and engineering in the United States based on the “world congress” assessment, is that our current position among the world leaders is likely to slip in some areas. The reasons vary, but some common elements include the globalization of research and the growth of economies.

The United States can be expected to continue supporting materials science, and new topics involving nanostructure materials and intelligent materials are among several exciting emerging areas of study. In addition, the United States will never want to lose its current strength in aerospace and defense, which are important not only to US security but for the stability of the post-cold-war world. The combination of global threats and economic opportunities can be expected to continue to drive US materials science and technology. Therefore, the panel finds that US leadership position in materials science and engineering should continue.

6.2. Biomaterials

Our strength relative to other countries in basic and applied biomaterials research is likely to erode in the near- and longer term for several reasons. Our lead in basic research is being contested by huge investments in Europe and Japan in biomaterials, both in academia and in industry. The potential market for biomaterials is larger outside the United States than it is within. There is a concern that our lead in applied areas is being jeopardized because of inconsistent and excessively conservative government regulatory policy and because of the litigious climate of our culture in general, which inhibits development and innovation. Although the United States is currently among the world leaders in contemporary diagnostic systems, we are rapidly losing ground to other nations.

6.3. Ceramics

In ceramics used for their thermal, electric, and mechanical characteristics, the United States and Japan share leadership. The Japanese manufacturing advantage is having an effect on engineering and research strengths, and the relative US position is in decline. However, emerging US research strengths in electromechanical systems and coatings would appear to redress the balance on the research side. Japan and Germany continue to be highly competitive in engineering of ceramics.



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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH 6 LIKELY FUTURE POSITIONS 6.1. Introduction The likely future position of materials science and engineering in the United States based on the “world congress” assessment, is that our current position among the world leaders is likely to slip in some areas. The reasons vary, but some common elements include the globalization of research and the growth of economies. The United States can be expected to continue supporting materials science, and new topics involving nanostructure materials and intelligent materials are among several exciting emerging areas of study. In addition, the United States will never want to lose its current strength in aerospace and defense, which are important not only to US security but for the stability of the post-cold-war world. The combination of global threats and economic opportunities can be expected to continue to drive US materials science and technology. Therefore, the panel finds that US leadership position in materials science and engineering should continue. 6.2. Biomaterials Our strength relative to other countries in basic and applied biomaterials research is likely to erode in the near- and longer term for several reasons. Our lead in basic research is being contested by huge investments in Europe and Japan in biomaterials, both in academia and in industry. The potential market for biomaterials is larger outside the United States than it is within. There is a concern that our lead in applied areas is being jeopardized because of inconsistent and excessively conservative government regulatory policy and because of the litigious climate of our culture in general, which inhibits development and innovation. Although the United States is currently among the world leaders in contemporary diagnostic systems, we are rapidly losing ground to other nations. 6.3. Ceramics In ceramics used for their thermal, electric, and mechanical characteristics, the United States and Japan share leadership. The Japanese manufacturing advantage is having an effect on engineering and research strengths, and the relative US position is in decline. However, emerging US research strengths in electromechanical systems and coatings would appear to redress the balance on the research side. Japan and Germany continue to be highly competitive in engineering of ceramics.

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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH In areas concerned with functional–electronic ceramics, work on such topics as self-assembly materials and multilayer ferrite processing, where the United States is at the forefront, should be targeted. Areas where we are among the world leaders and where we should maintain our position in the future include three dimensional nanoporous silicates, microwave dielectrics, and electrophoretic preparation of thin films. The United States is not expected to seriously challenge the Japanese leadership position in integrated micromagnetics. 6.4. Composites Basic research into composites at US universities is coming to a standstill as a result of the Department of Defense decision to strictly curtail university research funding in metal, polymer, and ceramic matrix composites. If this situation long persists, the US could forfeit its leadership role in composites. Academic research is at a nadir, but important new developments in industry are spurring implementation, especially in transportation and construction applications. 6.5. Magnetic Materials The US is catching up with the leaders in international research on magnetic materials and magnetism. University research in the magnetic materials area has begun to increase. More basic research on magnetic materials and magnetism is needed to increase the prospects for advances by the United States in this area. The vitality of magnetic recording and the phenomenon of colossal magnetoresistance are starting to produce a renaissance in fundamental magnetism research in the United States. 6.6. Metals In all probability, the US lead will remain, but that is not a certainty. For 5 decades, investments in materials research and development have been driven largely by national security needs. This has yielded a wealth of basic knowledge and new products. Because the United States is the only remaining “superpower”, this driving force should remain, but it will diminish in proportion to perceived threats to our national security. This will shift some of the burden for materials development to nondefense industries, such as transportation. The value of new materials to various industries varies widely—and so does support for materials research and development. Another force that will affect the US position is the consolidation and globalization of all industries from aerospace companies to automotive suppliers. For these businesses, the issues of US competitiveness and research and development leadership are much less important, because their playing field is the world and they will seek knowledge wherever it is to be found.

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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH 6.7. Electronic and Optical–Photonic Materials Research in electronics will continue to focus on materials and processes, and it will be conducted globally through international collaborations among industrial organizations. Industry partnerships with academia and government continue to be encouraged by the US Semiconductor Industry Association, which serves as a vehicle for forming other organizations—SEMATECH (the Semiconductor Research Corporation) and MARCO (the Microelectronics Advanced Research Corporation). Such partnerships, along with focused centers at universities, will continue to be vitally important to our leadership in the now-global semiconductor industry. As semiconductor technology approaches the 100 nm generation, unprecedented new materials and processing technology will be required. The United States and others will make these advances more or less equally, if not as partners. A global forecast for 2012 for technology-driven research directions in this industry for the United States is provided in the National Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (SIA, 1997). Some of the expected materials and process-related research includes silicon–germanium devices, new gate dielectric and gate electrode materials to replace SiO2, copper interconnection to replace aluminum, new low-dielectric constant materials for interlayer dielectrics, diffusion barrier materials and processing approaches for copper interconnection, and the replacement of polysilicon gates with high-conductivity gates having low or no depletion. New processing, characterization, and metrology methods will be required to achieve surface smoothness of ±2 Å RMS, gate dielectrics of 103 Å, and unprecedented cleanliness control. The United States should continue its leadership position in compound semiconductors (GaAs, GaAlAs) and wide-band-gap semiconductors (SiC) for power devices and microwave transmitters. These technologies, which will continue to find expanding applications for cellular telephone and satellite communication systems, are now and should continue to be well funded by industry and the government. Europe should continue to share leadership with the United States in electrical power distribution and motor control applications of power transistors. In the field of nanotechnology, the United States has traditionally been leading in exploratory nanostructures, including quantum wires and dots. It shares the lead with Europe and Russia in mesoscopic physics. Although continuing to provide leadership in basic research, the United States has conceded commercial leadership in wide-band-gap photonics to Europe and Japan, and the Japanese currently enjoy a commanding lead in GaN technology and the commercialization of photon-pumped, phosphor-coated ultraviolet emitters for displays. There are many excellent US university capabilities in wide-band-gap photonics, but much of the federal funding for this research is short-term oriented and lacks focus or a coherent long-term strategy to regain leadership in this important field. The Japanese are expected to dominate flat panel display technologies well into the future; US developments in thin-film electroluminescent displays on floppy polymer films could provide an important position in this display market for the United States. Research support in II-VI (ZnSe) wide-band-gap lasers is being shifted in US universities to nitride research. The Japanese continue to make major strides in improving the longevity and external efficiency of II-VI lasers and LED's. The Japanese lead in short wave length solid state laser communications and in related technologies. The United States leads in longer wave length lasers.

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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH 6.8. Superconducting Materials The current strong position of the United States in superconducting materials is not assured. Many early startup companies that showed promise are not yet profitable. Also, there is still less industrial research here than there is in Japan. Still, some small US companies maintain world leadership in the design, manufacture, and characterization of long-length conductors, although the shift in US corporate research away from longer term basic studies presents a question for the future: “Will the private sector benefit commercially from new concepts and advances occurring at universities and national laboratories?” This field could be one by which the success or failure of government –university–industry partnerships will be judged in the future. The shift in funding and research priorities among government agencies is affecting federal spending for basic research in favor of advanced developments. The Department of Defense still maintains a program in high-temperature superconductor applications, but total funding for basic research is declining and is increasingly in competition with other funding priorities. Momentum favors relative improvements in the US leadership position in some areas (magnetic properties, flux transport measurements and imaging, thin-film processing, and cable development), but without continued strong federal investment in basic and applied research, that position will change. On the bright side, dramatic advances in high-temperature superconductors have renewed interest in conventional superconductors for advanced applications, such as SQUIDS, energy storage, instrumentation, and telecommunications. With the improvements to and cost reductions projected for cryocoolers, the market potential for superconductor materials and related technologies should grow. The United States is well poised with strong processing and manufacturing capabilities and a growing talent pool to capture a substantial segment of these markets. 6.9. Polymers The United States has given less attention and funding than have many other countries to polymer research. Overseas education, research, and infrastructure have had infusions of funding that could change their relative positions, and the United States could lose ground in relative terms if not in absolute terms. The economic importance of synthetic polymers is evidenced by their wide use in plastics, fibers, adhesives, and paints. These materials are a large fraction of the “chemical” category in which the United States has a strong positive trade balance. Sustaining this balance will require the United States to maintain world leadership in polymer research. Environmental and life cycle responsibility is a driver for polymer research and development in Europe and is becoming more so in the United States.

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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH 6.10. Catalysts The leading position of the United States relative to the rest of the world in the subfield of catalysts is likely to lose ground as a result of the targeted funding aimed at growing capabilities in other countries. This area could stagnate in the United States without stronger, better equipped research centers where researchers can work together with common goals. The Catalyst Technology Roadmap Report (Sandia 1997) cites as “the three most important areas of application of catalyst technology in which improvement of catalytic processes would make the most significant progress selective oxidation, alkane activation, and byproduct and waste minimization.” In industrial practice, the United States will remain a world leader for production of chemicals through catalytic reactions in the most energy-efficient, safe, and environmentally compatible way. University-based research will continue to suffer relative to industry laboratories unless better equipment becomes available. As emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe develop and grow, the demand for basic chemicals and polymers (often made catalytically) will grow at double-digit rates. US industry will benefit from this growth because the technology to produce these materials often is not accessible to developing nations, and the expense required to build large-scale manufacturing plants is prohibitive. It is important to continue to invest in research on catalysts and catalysis to promote continued growth of US companies in export markets. Inventions that use new catalysts or new engineering process concepts that facilitate economic development of small-scale manufacturing plants will allow US companies to invest in new places overseas to serve local markets and speed growth of developing nations. The economies of scale that result from large-volume manufacturing plants support Western economies and allow a cost of manufacture that provides an attractive return on the investment required to build large-volume plants. US companies will continue to seek ways to develop small-scale manufacturing. For example, the concept of “a plant on an IC chip ” could some day allow attractive investments by US companies in local bulk chemical and polymer facilities in developing regions of the world. These points simply argue for continued investment in catalysis research in a way that encourages innovation and allows US industry the flexibility to participate in the growth of emerging markets. Innovation can be encouraged by collaborative research across disciplines and between the public and private sector. Attracting more chemistry students in to catalysis research aimed at discovering new science, while simultaneously strengthening links to technology and applications in the engineering area, would benefit the field. A well-funded national institute for catalysis research could serve as the focal point for such collaboration.

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