materials science

materials science
the study of the characteristics and uses of various materials, as glass, plastics, and metals.

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Study of the properties of solid materials and how those properties are determined by the material's composition and structure, both macroscopic and microscopic.

Materials science grew out of solid-state physics, metallurgy, ceramics, and chemistry, since the numerous properties of materials cannot be understood within the context of any single discipline. With a basic understanding of the origins of properties, materials can be selected or designed for an enormous variety of applications, from structural steels to computer microchips. Materials science is therefore important to many engineering fields, including electronics, aerospace, telecommunications, information processing, nuclear power, and energy conversion. See also mechanics, metallography, strength of materials, testing machine.

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      the study of the properties of solid materials and how those properties are determined by a material's composition and structure. It grew out of an amalgam of solid-state physics, metallurgy, and chemistry, since the rich variety of materials properties cannot be understood within the context of any single classical discipline. With a basic understanding of the origins of properties, materials can be selected or designed for an enormous variety of applications, ranging from structural steels to computer microchips. Materials science is therefore important to engineering activities such as electronics, aerospace, telecommunications, information processing, nuclear power, and energy conversion.

      This article approaches the subject of materials science through five major fields of application: energy, ground transportation, aerospace, computers and communications, and medicine. The discussions focus on the fundamental requirements of each field of application and on the abilities of various materials to meet those requirements.

      The many materials studied and applied in materials science are usually divided into four categories: metals, polymers, semiconductors, and ceramics. The sources, processing, and fabrication of these materials are explained at length in several articles: metallurgy (mineral deposit); elastomer (natural and synthetic rubber) (elastomer); plastic; man-made fibre (fibre, man-made); and industrial glass and ceramics (industrial ceramics). Atomic and molecular structures are discussed in chemical elements (chemical element) and matter (phase). The applications covered in this article are given broad coverage in energy conversion, transportation, electronics, and medicine (medicine, history of).

Materials for energy
      An industrially (industrialization) advanced society uses energy and materials in large amounts. Transportation, heating and cooling, industrial processes, communications—in fact, all the physical characteristics of modern life—depend on the flow and transformation of energy and materials through the techno-economic system. These two flows are inseparably intertwined and form the lifeblood of industrial society. The relationship of materials science to energy usage is pervasive and complex. At every stage of energy production, distribution, conversion, and utilization, materials play an essential role, and often special materials properties are needed. Remarkable growth in the understanding of the properties and structures of materials enables new materials, as well as improvements of old ones, to be developed on a scientific basis, thereby contributing to greater efficiency and lower costs.

Classification of energy-related materials
      Energy materials can be classified in a variety of ways. For example, they can be divided into materials that are passive or active. Those in the passive group do not take part in the actual energy-conversion process but act as containers, tools, or structures such as reactor vessels, pipelines, turbine blades, or oil drills. Active materials are those that take part directly in energy conversion—such as solar cells, batteries, catalysts, and superconducting magnets.

      Another way of classifying energy materials is by their use in conventional, advanced, and possible future energy systems. In conventional energy systems such as fossil fuels, hydroelectric generation, and nuclear reactors, the materials problems are well understood and are usually associated with structural mechanical properties or long-standing chemical effects such as corrosion. Advanced energy systems are in the development stage and are in actual use in limited markets. These include oil from shale and tar sands, coal gasification and liquefaction, photovoltaics, geothermal energy, and wind power. Possible future energy systems are not yet commercially deployed to any significant extent and require much more research before they can be used. These include hydrogen fuel and fast-breeder reactors, biomass conversion, and superconducting magnets for storing electricity.

      Classifying energy materials as passive or active or in relation to conventional, advanced, or future energy systems is useful because it provides a picture of the nature and degree of urgency of the associated materials requirements. But the most illuminating framework for understanding the relation of energy to materials is in the materials properties that are essential for various energy applications. Because of its breadth and variety, such a framework is best shown by examples. In oil refining, for example, reaction vessels must have certain mechanical and thermal properties, but catalysis is the critical process.

Applications of energy-related materials
High-temperature materials
      In order to extract useful work from a fuel, it must first be burned so as to bring some fluid (usually steam) to high temperatures (temperature). Thermodynamics indicates that the higher the temperature, the greater the efficiency of the conversion of heat to work; therefore, the development of materials for combustion chambers, pistons, valves, rotors, and turbine blades that can function at ever-higher temperatures is of critical importance. The first steam engines (steam engine) had an efficiency of less than 1 percent, while modern steam turbines achieve efficiencies of 35 percent or more. Part of this improvement has come from improved design and metalworking accuracy, but a large portion is the result of using improved high-temperature materials. The early engines were made of cast iron and then ordinary steels. Later, high-temperature alloys containing nickel, molybdenum, chromium, and silicon were developed that did not melt or fail at temperatures above 540° C (1,000° F). But modern combustion processes are nearing the useful temperature limits that can be achieved with metals, and so new materials that can function at higher temperatures—particularly intermetallic compounds and ceramics—are being developed.

      The structural features that limit the use of metals (metal) at high temperatures are both atomic (atom) and electronic. All materials contain dislocations. The simplest of these are the result of planes of atoms that do not extend all through the crystal, so that there is a line where the plane ends that has fewer atoms than normal. In metals, the outer electrons are free to move. This gives a delocalized cohesion so that, when a stress is applied, dislocations can move to relieve the stress. The result is that metals are ductile: not only can they be easily worked into desired shapes, but when stressed they will gradually yield plastically rather than breaking immediately. This is a desirable feature, but the higher the temperature, the greater the plastic flow under stress—and, if the temperature is too high, the material will become useless. In order to get around this, materials are being studied in which the motion of dislocations is inhibited. Ceramics such as silicon nitride or silicon carbide and intermetallics (intermetallic compound) such as nickel aluminide hold promise because the electrons that hold them together are highly localized in the form of valence or ionic bonds. It is as if metals were held together by a slippery glue while in nonmetals the atoms were connected by rigid rods. Dislocations thus find it much harder to move in nonmetals; raising the temperature does not increase dislocation motion, and the stress needed to make them yield is much higher. Furthermore, their melting points are significantly higher than those of metals, and they are much more resistant to chemical attack. But these desirable features come at a price. The very structure that makes them attractive also makes them brittle; that is, they do not flow when subject to a high stress and are prone to failure by cracking. Modern research is aimed at overcoming this lack of ductility by modification of the material and how it is made. Hot pressing of ceramic powders, for example, minimizes the number of defects at which cracks can start, and the addition of small amounts of certain metals to intermetallics strengthens the cohesion among crystal grains at which fractures normally develop. Such advances, along with intelligent design, hold the promise of being able to build heat engines of much higher efficiency than those now available.

diamond drills
      Diamond drill bits are an excellent example of how an old material can be improved. Diamond is the hardest known substance and would make an excellent drill bit except that it is expensive and has weak planes in its crystal structure. Because natural diamonds are single crystals, the planes extend throughout the material, and they cleave easily. Such cleavage planes allow a diamond cutter to produce beautiful gems, but they are a disaster for drilling through rock. This limitation was overcome by Stratapax, a sintered diamond material developed by the General Electric Company of the United States. This consists of synthetic diamond powder that is formed into a thin plate and bonded to tungsten-carbide studs by sintering (fusing by heating the material below the melting point). Because the diamond plate is polycrystalline, cleavage cannot propagate through the material. The result is a very hard bit that does not fail by cleavage when it is used to drill through rock to get at oil and natural gas.

Oil platforms
      An important example of dealing with old problems by modern methods is provided by the prevention of crack growth in offshore oil-drilling platforms. The primary structure consists of welded steel tubing that is subject to continually varying stress from ocean waves. Since the cost of building and deploying a platform can amount to several billion dollars, it is imperative that the platform have a long life and not be lost because of premature metal failure.

      In the North Sea, 75 percent of the waves are higher than two metres (six feet) and exert considerable stresses on the platform. Cyclic loading of a metal ultimately results in fatigue failure in which surface cracks form, grow over time, and eventually cause the metal to break. Welds are the weak spots for such a process because weld metal has mechanical properties that are inferior to steel, and these are made even worse by internal stresses and defects (such as tiny voids and oxide particles) that are introduced in the welding process. Furthermore, the tube geometry at the weld consists of T- and K-shaped joints, which are natural stress concentrators. Fatigue failure in oil platforms therefore takes place at welds.

      Fatigue occurs because cyclic stress causes dislocations to form and to move back and forth in the metal. Dislocation motion can be impeded by the presence of barriers such as small voids, grain boundaries, other dislocations, impurities, or even the surface itself. When dislocations are thereby pinned down, they stop the motion of other dislocations created by the stress, and a tangled dislocation network forms that results in a hard spot in the weld. The stress is then not easily relieved, and types of dislocation motion that are characteristic of the fatigue process initiate a crack at the weld surface. This phenomenon is a direct result of the microstructure of the weld and could be minimized by making the weld very uniform, preferably of the same material as the tubing, and having a very gently curved geometry at the joint. But, in spite of the sophistication of modern welding techniques, this is not yet feasible. An alternate strategy is therefore used in which the progress of the weld crack is monitored so that repairs can be made in time to avoid catastrophic failure. This can be done because, given the geometry of the joint, the depth of the crack is proportional to time until the crack is quite large. By contrast, in laboratory tests in which simple strips of metal are subject to cyclic stress, the growth rate increases as the crack becomes larger. In the T or K configuration in oil platforms, stress is much more evenly distributed, and the crack does not grow at an increasing speed until it is close to being fatal.

      A technique for measuring the crack depth is based on the skin effect, the phenomenon in which a high-frequency alternating current is confined to the surface of a conductor. This makes it possible to measure the surface area of a small region with a simple meter, since an increase in crack depth means an increase in current path, and this in turn causes an increase in voltage drop. Measurement over time then allows the time to failure to be estimated; repairs can be effected before failure occurs. In this case, a knowledge of microstructure, the materials science of fatigue, and the study of crack formation have led to a simple testing technique of great economic importance.

      Mathematical modeling (mathematical model) of mass motion and heat transfer (including convection), along with studies of solidification, gas dissolution, and the effects of fluxes, are providing a much more detailed understanding of the factors controlling weld structure. With this knowledge, it should be possible to make welds with far fewer defects.

      A different example is provided by the disposal (waste disposal) of radioactive waste. Here the issue is primarily safety and the perception of safety rather than economics. Waste disposal will continue to be one of the factors that inhibit the exploitation of nuclear power until the public perceives it as posing no danger. The current plan is to interpose three barriers between the waste and human beings by first encapsulating it in a solid material, putting that in a metal container, and finally burying that container in geologically stable formations. The first step requires an inert, stable material that will hold the radioactive atoms trapped for a very long time, while the second step requires a material that is highly resistant to corrosion and degradation.

      There are two good candidates for encapsulation. The first is borosilicate glass (Pyrex); this can be melted with the radioactive material, which then becomes a part of the glass structure. glass has a very low solubility, and atoms in it have a very low rate of migration, so that it provides an excellent barrier to the escape of radioactivity. However, glass devitrifies at the high temperatures resulting from the heat of radioactive decay; that is to say, the amorphous glassy state becomes crystalline, and, during this process, many cracks form in the material so that it no longer provides a good barrier against the escape of radioactive atoms. (This problem is more severe in rock than in salt formations, because salt has higher thermal conductivity than rock and dissipates the heat more easily.) The problem can be eased by storing the waste above ground for a decade or so. This would allow the initially high rate of decay to decrease, thereby lowering the temperature that would be reached after encapsulation. Handled in this way, borosilicate glass would be an excellent encapsulation material for reactor waste that had been aged for a decade or so.

      The other candidate is a synthetic rock made of mineral mixtures such as zirconolite and perovskite. These are very insoluble and, in their natural state, are known to have sequestered radioactive elements for hundreds of millions of years. They are crystalline, ceramic materials whose crystal structures allow radioactive atoms to be immobilized within them. They are not subject to devitrification, since they are already crystalline.

      Once encapsulated, radioactive waste must be put into canisters that are corrosion-resistant. These can be made of nickel-steel alloys, but the best candidate so far is a titanium material containing small amounts of nickel and molybdenum and traces of carbon and iron. Even though they are meant to be buried in as dry an environment as possible, these metals are tested by immersing them in brine. Tests show that seawater at 250° C (480° F) would corrode away less than one micrometre (one-thousandth of a millimetre, or four ten-thousandths of an inch) of the surface of the titanium material (known as Ti code 12) per year. This remarkable performance is primarily the result of a tough, highly resistant oxide skin that forms on titanium when exposed to oxygen. It would take thousands of years for the canisters to be penetrated by corrosion.

      In order to estimate the effectiveness of such waste disposal, it must be noted that the waste is highly radioactive and dangerous initially but that the danger decreases with time. Radioactivity decays to such levels that the danger is much less after a few hundred years, extremely low after 500 years, and negligible after 1,000 years. In order to breach the triple-barrier system, groundwater must migrate to the canister, eat it away, and then leach out the radioactive atoms from the encapsulating glass or ceramic. This is a process that most probably would take far longer than a single millennium. A careful application of materials science can make radioactive waste disposal safer than current disposal methods for other toxic wastes.

      Photovoltaic systems are an attractive alternative to fossil or nuclear fuels for the generation of electricity (electric power). sunlight is free, it does not use up an irreplaceable resource, and its conversion to electricity is nonpolluting. In fact, photovoltaics (solar energy) are now in use where power lines from utility grids are either not possible or do not exist, as in outer space or remote, nonurban locations.

      The barrier to widespread use of sunlight to generate electricity is the cost of photovoltaic systems. The application of materials science is essential in efforts to lower the cost to levels that can compete with those for fossil or nuclear fuels.

      The conversion of light to electricity depends on the electronic structure (electronic configuration) of solar cells (solar cell) with two or more layers of semiconductor material that can absorb photons (photon), the primary energy packets of light. The photons raise the energy level of the electrons (electron) in the semiconductor, exciting some to jump from the lower-energy valence band to the higher-energy conduction band. The electrons in the conduction band and the holes (hole) they have left behind in the valence band are both mobile and can be induced to move by a voltage. The electron motion, and the movement of holes in the opposite direction, constitute an electric current. The force that drives electrons and holes through a circuit is created by the junction (p-n junction) of two dissimilar semiconducting materials, one of which has a tendency to give up electrons and acquire holes (thereby becoming the positive, or p-type, charge carrier) while the other accepts electrons (becoming the negative, or n-type, carrier). The electronic structure that permits this is the band gap; it is equivalent to the energy required to move an electron from the lower band to the higher. The magnitude of this gap is important. Only photons with energy greater than that of the band gap can excite electrons from the valence band to the conduction band; therefore, the smaller the gap, the more efficiently light will be converted to electricity—since there is a greater range of light frequencies with sufficiently high energies. On the other hand, the gap cannot be too small, because the electrons and holes then find it easy to recombine, and a sizable current cannot be maintained.

      The band gap defines the theoretical maximum efficiency of a solar cell, but this cannot be attained because of other materials factors. For each material there is an intrinsic rate of recombination of electrons and holes that removes their contribution to electric current. This recombination is enhanced by surfaces, interfaces, and crystal defects such as grain boundaries, dislocations, and impurities. Also, a fraction of the light is reflected by the cell's surface rather than being absorbed, and some can pass through the cell without exciting electrons to the conduction band.

      Improvements in the trade-off between cell efficiency and cost are well illustrated by the preparation of silicon that is the basic material of current solar cells. Initially, high-purity silicon was grown from a silicon melt by slowly pulling out a seed crystal that grew by the accretion and slow solidification of the molten material. Known as the Czochralski process, this resulted in a high-purity, single-crystal ingot that was then sliced into wafers about 1 millimetre (0.04 inch) thick. Each wafer's surface was then “doped” with impurities to create p-type and n-type materials with a junction between them. Metal was then deposited to provide electrical leads, and the wafer was encapsulated to yield a cell about 100 millimetres in diameter. This was an expensive and time-consuming process; it has been much improved in a variety of ways. For example, high-purity silicon can be made at drastically reduced cost by chemically converting ordinary silicon to silane or trichlorosilane and then reducing it back to silicon. This silane process is capable of continuous operation at a high production rate and with low energy input. In order to avoid the cost and waste associated with sawing silicon into wafers, methods of directly drawing molten silicon into thin sheets or ribbons have been developed; these can produce crystalline, polycrystalline, or amorphous material. Another alternative is the manufacture of thin films on ceramic substrates—a process that uses much less silicon than other methods. Single-crystal silicon has a higher efficiency than other forms, but it is also much more expensive. The materials challenge is to find a combination of cost and efficiency that makes photovoltaic electricity economically possible.

      Surface treatments that increase efficiency include deposition of antireflecting coatings, such as silicon nitride, on the front of the cell and highly reflective coatings on the rear. Thus, more of the light that strikes a cell actually enters it, and light that escapes out the back is reflected back into the cell. An ingenious surface treatment is part of the point contact method, in which the surface of the cell is not planar but microgrooved so that light is randomly reflected as it strikes the cell. This increases the amount of light that can be captured by the cell.

Louis A. Girifalco

Materials for ground transportation
      The global effort to improve the efficiency of ground transportation vehicles, such as automobiles, buses, trucks, and trains, and thereby reduce the massive amounts of pollutants they emit, provides an excellent context within which to illustrate how materials science functions to develop new or better materials in response to critical human needs. For the automobile industry (automotive industry) in particular, the story is a fascinating one in which the desire for lower vehicle weight, reduced emissions, and improved fuel economy has led to intense competition among aluminum, plastics, and steel companies for shares in the enormous markets involved (40 million to 50 million cars and trucks per year worldwide). In this battle, materials scientists have a key role to play because the success of their efforts to develop improved materials will determine the shape and viability of future automobiles.

      Just how seriously suppliers to the industry view the need either to protect or to increase their share of these enormous markets is demonstrated by their establishing of special programs, consortia, or centres that are specifically designed to develop better alloys, plastics, or ceramics for automotive applications. For example, in the United States a program at the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) called the aluminum intensive vehicle (AIV), and a similar one at Reynolds Metals, were established to develop materials and processes for making automobile “space frames” consisting of aluminum-alloy rods and die-cast connectors joined by welding and adhesive bonding. Not to be outdone, another aluminum company, Alcan Aluminium Limited of Canada, in a program entitled aluminum structured vehicle technology (ASVT), began to investigate the construction of automobile unibodies from adhesively bonded aluminum sheet. The plastics (plastic) industry, of course, has a powerful interest in replacing as many metal automobile components as possible, and in order to help bring this about a centre called D&S Plastics International was formed in the Detroit, Mich., area of the United States by three corporations. The specific aim of this centre was to develop materials and a process suitable for forming several connected panels or components (e.g., body panels and bumper fascias) simultaneously out of different types of plastics. The centrepiece of the operation was a 4,000-ton co-injection press that could lead to cost reductions as great as 50 percent and thereby make the use of plastics for automotive applications more attractive.

      In programs such as these, and in many more carried out by vendors and within the automobile companies themselves, materials scientists with specialized training in advanced metals, plastics, and ceramics have been leading a revolution in the automotive industry. The following sections describe specific needs that have been identified for improving the performance of automobiles and other ground-transportation vehicles, as well as approaches that materials scientists have taken in response to those needs.

Metals (metal)
      Since aluminum has about one-third the density of steel, its substitution for steel in automobiles would seem to be a sensible approach to reducing weight and thereby increasing fuel economy and reducing harmful emissions. Such substitutions cannot be made, however, without due consideration of significant differences in other properties of the two materials. This is one important facet of the materials scientist's job—to help evaluate the suitability of a material for a given application based on how its properties balance against load and performance requirements specified by the design engineer. In this case (aluminum versus steel), it is instructive to consider the materials scientist's approach to evaluating the use of aluminum in automotive panels—such components as doors, hoods, trunk decks, and roofs that can make up more than 60 percent of a vehicle's weight.

      Two primary properties of any metal are (1) its yield strength, defined as its ability to resist permanent deformation (such as a fender dent), and (2) its elastic modulus, defined as its ability to resist elastic or springy deflection like a drum head. By alloying (alloy), aluminum can be made to have a yield strength equal to a moderately strong steel and therefore to exhibit similar resistance to denting in an automobile panel. On the other hand, alloying does not normally affect the elastic modulus of metals significantly, so that automotive door panels or hoods made from aluminum alloys, all of which have approximately one-third the modulus of steel, would be floppy and suffer large deflections when buffeted by the wind, for example. From this point of view, aluminum would appear to be a marginal choice for body panels.

      One might attempt to overcome this deficiency by increasing the thickness of the aluminum sheet stock to three times the thickness of the steel it is intended to replace. This, however, would simply increase the weight to roughly that of an equivalent steel structure and thus defeat the purpose of the exercise. Fortunately, as was elegantly demonstrated in 1980 by two British materials scientists, Michael Ashby and David Jones, when proper account is taken of the way an actual door panel deflects, constrained as it is by the door edges, it is possible to use aluminum sheet only slightly thicker than the steel it would replace and still achieve equivalent performance. The net result would be a weight savings of almost two-thirds by the substitution of aluminum for steel on such body components. This suggests that understanding the interrelationship between materials properties and structural design is an important factor in the successful application of materials science.

      Another important activity of the materials scientist is that of alloy development, which in some cases involves designing alloys for very specific applications. For example, in Alcoa's AIV effort, materials scientists and engineers developed a special casting alloy for use as cast aluminum nodes (connecters) in their space frame design. Ordinarily, metal castings exhibit very little toughness, or ductility, and they are therefore prone to brittle fracture followed by catastrophic failure. Since the integrity of an automobile would be limited by having relatively brittle body components, a proprietary casting alloy and processing procedure were developed that provide a material of much greater ductility than is normally available in a casting alloy.

      Many other advances in aluminum technology, brought about by materials scientists and design engineers, have led to a greater acceptance of aluminum in automobiles, trucks, buses, and even light rail vehicles. Among these are alloys for air-conditioner (air-conditioning) components that are designed to be chemically compatible with environmentally safer refrigerants and to withstand the higher pressures required by them. Also, alloys have been developed that combine good formability and corrosion resistance with the ability to achieve maximum strength without heat treating; these alloys develop their strength during the forming operation. As a consequence, the list of vehicles that contain significant quantities of aluminum substituted for steel has steadily grown. A milestone was reached in 1992 with a limited-edition Jaguar sports car that was virtually all aluminum, including the engine, adhesively bonded chassis, and skin. Somewhat less expensive and in full production were Honda's (Honda Motor Company, Ltd.) Acura NSX, containing more than 400 kilograms (900 pounds) of aluminum compared with about 70 kilograms for the average automobile, and General Motors' (General Motors Corporation) Saturn, with an aluminum engine block and cylinder heads. These vehicles and others took their place alongside the British Land Rover, which was built with all-aluminum body panels beginning in 1948—a choice dictated by a shortage of steel during World War II and continued by the manufacturer ever since.

      While the goal of the aluminum and plastics industries is to achieve vehicle weight reductions by substituting their products for steel components, the goal of the steel industry is to counter such inroads with such innovative developments as high-strength, but inexpensive, “microalloyed” steels that achieve weight savings by thickness reductions. In addition, alloys have been developed that can be tempered (strengthened) in paint-baking ovens rather than in separate and expensive heat-treatment furnaces normally required for conventional steels.

      The microalloyed steels, also known as high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) steels, are intermediate in composition between carbon steels (carbon steel), whose properties are controlled mainly by the amount of carbon they contain (usually less than 1 percent), and alloy steels, which derive their strength, toughness, and corrosion resistance primarily from other elements, including silicon, nickel, and manganese, added in somewhat larger amounts. Developed in the l960s and resurrected in the late 1970s to satisfy the need for weight savings through greater strength, the HSLA steels tend to be low in carbon with minute additions of titanium or vanadium, for example. Offering tensile strengths (tensile strength) that can be triple the value of the carbon steels they are designed to replace (e.g., 700 megapascals versus 200 megapascals), they have led to significant weight savings through thickness reductions—albeit at a slight loss of structural stiffness, because their elastic moduli are the same as other steels. They are considered to be quite competitive with aluminum substitutes for two reasons: they are relatively inexpensive (steel sells for one-half the price of aluminum on a per-unit-weight basis); and very little change in fabrication and processing procedures is needed in switching from carbon steel to HSLA steel, whereas major changes are usually required in switching to aluminum.

      Bake-hardenable steels were developed specifically for the purpose of eliminating an expensive fabrication step—i.e., the heat-treating furnace, where steels are imparted with their final strength. To do this, materials scientists have designed steels that can be strengthened in the same ovens used to bake body paint onto the part. These furnaces must operate at relatively low temperatures (170° C, or 340° F), so that special steels had to be developed that would achieve suitable strengths at heat-treatment temperatures very much below those normally employed (up to 600° C, or 1,100° F). Knowing that high-alloy steels would never be hardenable at such low temperatures, materials scientists focused their attention on carbon steels, but even here adequate strengths could not be obtained initially. Then in the 1980s scientists at the Japanese Sumitomo Metal Industries developed a steel containing nitrogen (a gas that constitutes three-quarters of the Earth's atmosphere) in addition to carbon and several other additives. Very high strengths (over 900 megapascals) and excellent toughness can be achieved on formed parts with this inexpensive addition after baking for 20 minutes at temperatures typical for a paint-baking operation.

Plastics (plastic) and composites (composite material)
      The motive for replacing the metal components of cars, trucks, and trains with plastics is the expectation of large weight savings due to the large differences in density involved: plastics are one-sixth the weight of steel and one-half that of aluminum per unit volume. However, as in evaluating the suitability of replacing steel with aluminum, the materials scientist must compare other properties of the materials in order to determine whether the tradeoffs are reasonable. For two reasons, the likely conclusion would be that plastics simply are not suitable for this type of application: the strength of most plastics, such as epoxies and polyesters, is roughly one-fifth that of steel or aluminum; and their elastic modulus is one-sixtieth that of steel and one-twentieth that of aluminum. On this basis, plastics do not appear to be suitable for structural components. What, then, accounts for the successful use that has been made of them? The answer lies in efforts made over the years by materials scientists, polymer chemists, mechanical engineers, and production managers to combine relatively weak and low-stiffness resins with high-strength, high-modulus reinforcements, thereby making new materials called composites with much more suitable properties than plastics alone.

      The reinforcements used in composites are generally chosen for their high strength and modulus, as might be expected, but economic considerations often force compromises. For example, carbon fibres have extremely high modulus values (up to five times that of steel) and therefore make excellent reinforcements. However, their cost precludes their extensive use in automobiles, trucks, and trains, although they are used regularly in the aerospace industry. More suitable for non-aerospace applications are glass fibres (fibreglass) (whose modulus can approach 1.5 times that of aluminum) or, in somewhat special cases, a mixture of glass and carbon fibres.

      The physical form and shape of the reinforcements vary greatly, depending on many factors. The most effective reinforcements are long fibres, which are employed either in the form of a woven cloth or as separate layers of unidirectional fibres stacked upon one another until the proper laminate thickness is achieved. The resin may be applied to the fibres or cloth before laying up, thus forming what are termed prepregs, or it may be added later by “wetting out” the fibres. In either case, the assembly is then cured, usually under pressure, to form the composite. This type of composite takes full advantage of the properties of the fibres and is therefore capable of yielding strong, stiff panels. Unfortunately, the labour involved in the lay-up operations and other factors make it very expensive, so that long-fibre reinforcement is used only sparingly in the automobile industry.

      One attempt to avoid expensive hand lay-up operations involves chopped fibres that are employed in mat form, somewhat like felt, or as loose fibres that may be either blown into a mold or injected into a mold along with the resin. Another method does not use fibres at all; instead the reinforcement is in the form of small, high-modulus particles. These are the least expensive of all to process, since the particles are simply mixed into the resin, and the mixture is used in various types of molds. On the other hand, particles are the least efficient reinforcement material; as a consequence, property improvements are not outstanding.

      In choosing the other major constituent in composites, the polymer matrix, one faces a somewhat daunting variety, including epoxies, polyimides, polyurethanes, and polyesters. Each has its advantages and disadvantages that must be evaluated in order to determine suitability for a particular application. Among the factors to be considered are cost, processing temperature (curing temperature if using a thermoset polymer and melting temperature if using a thermoplastic), flow properties in the molding operation, sag resistance during paint bake out, moisture resistance, and shelf life. The number of combinations of resins, reinforcements, production methods, and fibre-to-resin ratios is so challenging that materials scientists must join forces with polymer chemists and engineers from the design, production, and quality-control departments of the company in order to choose the right combination for the application.

      Judging by the inroads that have been made in replacing metals with composites, it appears that technologists have been making the right choices. The introduction of fibreglass-reinforced plastic skins on General Motors' (General Motors Corporation) l953 Corvette sports car marked the first appearance of composites in a production model, and composites have continued to appear in automotive components ever since. In 1984, General Motors' Fiero was placed on the market with the entire body made from composites, and the Camaro/Firebird models followed with doors, roof panels, fenders, and other parts made of composites. Composites were also chosen for exterior panels in the Saturn, which appeared in 1990. In addition, they have had less visible applications—for example, the glass-reinforced nylon air-intake manifold on some BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG) models.

      Ceramics play an important role in engine (internal-combustion engine) efficiency and pollution abatement in automobiles and trucks. For example, one type of ceramic, cordierite (a magnesium aluminosilicate), is used as a substrate and support for catalysts in catalytic converters. It was chosen for this purpose because, along with many ceramics, it is lightweight, can operate at very high temperatures without melting, and conducts heat poorly (helping to retain exhaust heat for improved catalytic efficiency). In a novel application of ceramics, a cylinder wall was made of transparent sapphire (aluminum oxide) by General Motors' researchers in order to examine visually the internal workings of a gasoline engine combustion chamber. The intention was to arrive at improved understanding of combustion control, leading to greater efficiency of internal-combustion engines.

      Another application of ceramics to automotive needs is a ceramic sensor that is used to measure the oxygen content of exhaust gases. The ceramic, usually zirconium oxide to which a small amount of yttrium has been added, has the property of producing a voltage whose magnitude depends on the partial pressure of oxygen surrounding the material. The electrical signal obtained from such a sensor is then used to control the fuel-to-air ratio in the engine in order to obtain the most efficient operation.

      Because of their brittleness, ceramics have not been used as load-bearing components in ground-transportation vehicles to any great extent. The problem remains a challenge to be solved by materials scientists of the future.

John D. Venables

Materials for aerospace (aerospace engineering)
      The primary goal in the selection of materials for aerospace structures (spacecraft) is the enhancement of fuel efficiency to increase the distance traveled and the payload delivered. This goal can be attained by developments on two fronts: increased engine efficiency through higher operating temperatures and reduced structural weight. In order to meet these needs, materials scientists look to materials in two broad areas—metal alloys and advanced composite materials. A key factor contributing to the advancement of these new materials is the growing ability to tailor materials to achieve specific properties.

Metals (metal)
      Many of the advanced metals currently in use in aircraft were designed specifically for applications in gas-turbine engines, the components of which are exposed to high temperatures, corrosive gases, vibration, and high mechanical loads. During the period of early jet engines (jet engine) (from about 1940 to 1970), design requirements were met by the development of new alloys alone. But the more severe requirements of advanced propulsion systems have driven the development of novel alloys that can withstand temperatures greater than 1,000° C (1,800° F), and the structural performance of such alloys (alloy) has been improved by developments in the processes of melting and solidification.

Melting and solidifying
      Alloys are substances composed of two or more metals or of a metal and a nonmetal that are intimately united, usually by dissolving in each other when they are melted. The principal objectives of melting (thermal fusion) are to remove impurities and to mix the alloying ingredients homogeneously in the base metal. Major advances have been made with the development of new processes based on melting under vacuum (hot isostatic pressing), rapid solidification, and directional solidification.

      In hot isostatic pressing, prealloyed powders are packed into a thin-walled, collapsible container, which is placed in a high-temperature vacuum to remove adsorbed gas molecules. It is then sealed and put in a press, where it is exposed to very high temperatures and pressures. The mold collapses and welds the powder together in the desired shape.

      Molten metals cooled at rates as high as a million degrees per second tend to solidify into a relatively homogeneous microstructure, since there is insufficient time for crystalline grains to nucleate and grow. Such homogeneous materials tend to be stronger than the typical “grainy” metals. Rapid cooling rates can be achieved by “splat” cooling, in which molten droplets are projected onto a cold surface. Rapid heating and solidification can also be achieved by passing high-power laser beams over the material's surface.

      Unlike composite materials (see below Composites (materials science)), grainy metals exhibit properties that are essentially the same in all directions, so they cannot be tailored to match anticipated load paths (i.e., stresses applied in specific directions). However, a technique called directional solidification provides a certain degree of tailorability. In this process the temperature of the mold is precisely controlled to promote the formation of aligned stiff crystals as the molten metal cools. These serve to reinforce the component in the direction of alignment in the same fashion as fibres reinforce composite materials.

      These advances in processing have been accompanied by the development of new “superalloys.” Superalloys are high-strength, often complex alloys that are resistant to high temperatures and severe mechanical stress and that exhibit high surface stability. They are commonly classified into three major categories: nickel-based, cobalt-based, and iron-based. Nickel-based superalloys predominate in the turbine section of jet engines. Although they have little inherent resistance to oxidation at high temperatures, they gain desirable properties through the addition of cobalt, chromium, tungsten, molybdenum, titanium, aluminum, and niobium.

      Aluminum-lithium alloys are stiffer and less dense than conventional aluminum alloys. They are also “superplastic,” owing to the fine grain size that can now be achieved in processing. Alloys in this group are appropriate for use in engine components exposed to intermediate to high temperatures; they can also be used in wing and body skins.

       titanium alloys, as modified to withstand high temperatures, are seeing increased use in turbine engines. They are also employed in airframes, primarily for military aircraft but to some extent for commercial planes as well.

Composites (composite material)
      While developments in metals have had an impact on engine design, there is a growing trend toward the application of composite materials to aerospace structures. One of the reasons for this is that alloys do not offer substantial weight savings, which is a primary advantage of composites. Indeed, advanced composites have been used most widely where saving mass results in either significantly improved performance or significantly lower life-cycle costs. The most extensive application, therefore, has been in satellite systems, military aircraft, radomes, helicopters, commercial transport aircraft, and general aviation.

      Broadly defined, composites are materials with two or more distinct components that combine to yield characteristics superior to those of the individual constituents. Although this definition can apply to such ordinary building materials as plywood, concrete, and bricks, within the aerospace industry the term composite generally refers to the fibre-reinforced (fibre) metal, polymer, and ceramic products that have come into use since World War II. These materials consist of fibres (such as glass, graphite, silicon carbide, or aramid) that are embedded in a matrix of, for example, aluminum, epoxy, or silicon nitride.

      In the late 1950s a revolution in materials development occurred in response to the space program's need for lightweight, thermally stable materials. Boron-tungsten filaments, carbon-graphite fibres, and organic aramid fibres proved to be strong, stiff, and light, but one problem with using them as fibres was that they were of limited value in any construction other than rope, which can bear loads in only one direction. Materials scientists needed to develop a way to make them useful under all loading conditions, and this led to the development of composites. While the structural value of a bundle of fibres is low, the strength of individual fibres can be harnessed if they are embedded in a matrix that acts as an adhesive, binding the fibres and lending solidity to the material. The matrix also protects the fibres from environmental stress and physical damage, which can initiate cracks. In addition, while the strength and stiffness of the composite remain largely a function of the reinforcing material—that is, the fibres—the matrix can contribute other properties, such as thermal and electrical conductivity and, most important, thermal stability. Finally, fibre-matrix combination reduces the potential for complete fracture. In a monolithic (or single) material, a crack, once started, generally continues to propagate until the material fails; in a composite, if one fibre in an assemblage fails, the crack may not extend to the other fibres, so the damage is limited.

      To some extent, the composite-materials engineer is trying to mimic structures made spontaneously by plants and animals. A tree, for example, is made of a fibre-reinforced material whose strength is derived from cellulose fibres that grow in directions that match the weight of the branches. Similarly, many organisms naturally fabricate “bioceramics,” such as those found in shells, teeth, and bones. While the designers of composites for the aerospace industry would like to copy some of the features of bioceramics production—room-temperature processing and net-shape products, for example—they do not want to be constrained by slow processing methods and limited fibre and matrix material choices. In addition, unlike a mollusk, which has to produce only one shell, the composites manufacturer has to use rapid, repeatable processing methods that can fabricate hundreds or even thousands of parts.

      Modern composites are generally classified into three categories according to the matrix material: polymer, metal, or ceramic. Since polymeric materials tend to degrade at elevated temperatures, polymer-matrix composites (PMCs) are restricted to secondary structures in which operating temperatures are lower than 300° C (570° F). For higher temperatures, metal-matrix and ceramic-matrix composites are required.

Polymer-matrix composites
      PMCs are of two broad types, thermosets and thermoplastics. Thermosets are solidified by irreversible chemical reactions, in which the molecules in the polymer “cross-link,” or form connected chains. The most common thermosetting matrix materials for high-performance composites used in the aerospace industry are the epoxies. Thermoplastics, on the other hand, are melted and then solidified, a process that can be repeated numerous times for reprocessing. Although the manufacturing technologies for thermoplastics are generally not as well developed as those for thermosets, thermoplastics offer several advantages. First, they do not have the shelf-life problem associated with thermosets, which require freezer storage to halt the irreversible curing process that begins at room temperature. Second, they are more desirable from an environmental point of view, as they can be recycled. They also exhibit higher fracture toughness and better resistance to solvent attack. Unfortunately, thermoplastics are more expensive, and they generally do not resist heat as well as thermosets; however, strides are being made in developing thermoplastics with higher melting temperatures. Overall, thermoplastics offer a greater choice of processing approaches, so that the process can be determined by the scale and rate of production required and by the size of the component.

      A variety of reinforcements can be used with both thermoset and thermoplastic PMCs, including particles, whiskers (very fine single crystals), discontinuous (short) fibres, continuous fibres, and textile preforms (made by braiding, weaving, or knitting fibres together in specified designs). Continuous fibres are more efficient at resisting loads than are short ones, but it is more difficult to fabricate complex shapes from materials containing continuous fibres than from short-fibre or particle-reinforced materials. To aid in processing, most high-performance composites are strengthened with filaments that are bundled into yarns. Each yarn, or tow, contains thousands of filaments, each of which has a diameter of approximately 10 micrometres (0.01 millimetre, or 0.0004 inch).

      Depending on the application and on the type of load to be applied to the composite part, the reinforcement can be random, unidirectional (aligned in a single direction), or multidirectional (oriented in two or three dimensions). If the load is uniaxial, the fibres are all aligned in the load direction to gain maximum benefit of their stiffness and strength. However, for multidirectional loading (for example, in aircraft skins), the fibres must be oriented in a variety of directions. This is often accomplished by stacking layers (or lamina) of continuous-fibre systems.

      The most common form of material used for the fabrication of composite structures is the preimpregnated tape, or “prepreg.” There are two categories of prepreg: tapes, generally 75 millimetres (3 inches) or less in width, intended for fabrication in automated, computer-controlled tape-laying machines; and “broad goods,” usually several metres in dimension, intended for hand lay-up and large sheet applications. To make prepregs, fibres are subjected to a surface treatment so that the resin will adhere to them. They are then placed in a resin bath and rolled into tapes or sheets.

      To fabricate the composite, the manufacturer “lays up” the prepreg according to the reinforcement needs of the application. This has traditionally been done by hand, with successive layers of a broad-goods laminate stacked over a tool in the shape of the desired part in such a way as to accommodate the anticipated loads. However, efforts are now being directed toward automated (automation) fibre-placement methods in order to reduce costs and ensure quality and repeatability. Automated fibre-placement processes fall into two categories, tape laying and filament winding. The tape-laying process involves the use of devices that control the placement of narrow prepreg tapes over tooling with the contours of the desired part and along paths prescribed by the design requirements of the structure. The width of the tape determines the “sharpness” of the turns required to place the fibres in the prescribed direction—i.e., wide tapes are used for gradual turns, while narrow tapes are required for the sharp turns associated with more complex shapes.

      Filament winding uses the narrowest prepreg unit available—the yarn, or tow, of impregnated filaments. In this process, the tows are wound in prescribed directions over a rotating mandrel in the shape of the part. Successive layers are added until the required thickness is reached. Although filament winding was initially limited to geodesic paths (i.e., winding the fibres along the most direct route between two points), the process is now capable of fabricating complex shapes through the use of robots.

      For thermosetting polymers, the structure generated by either tape laying or filament winding must undergo a second manipulation in order to solidify the polymer through a curing reaction. This is usually accomplished by heating the completed structure in an autoclave, or oven. Thermoplastic systems offer the advantage of on-line consolidation, so that the high energy and capital costs associated with the curing step can be eliminated. For these systems, prepreg can be locally melted, consolidated, and cooled at the point of contact so that a finished structure is produced. A variety of energy sources are used to concentrate heat at the point of contact, including hot-gas torches, infrared light, and laser beams.

      Pultrusion, the only truly continuous process for manufacturing parts from PMCs, is economical but limited to the production of beamlike shapes. On a pultrusion line, fibres and the resin are pushed through a heated die, or shaping tool, at one end, then cooled and pulled out at the other end. This process can be applied to both thermoplastic and thermoset polymers.

      Resin transfer molding, or RTM, is a composites processing method that offers a high potential for tailorability but is currently limited to low-viscosity (easily flowing) thermosetting polymers. In RTM, a textile preform—made by braiding, weaving, or knitting fibres together in a specified design—is placed into a mold, which is then closed and injected with a resin. After consolidation, the mold is opened and the part removed. Preforms can be made in a wide variety of architectures, and several can be joined together during the RTM process to form a multi-element preform offering reinforcement in specific areas and load directions.

      The similarity of meltable thermoplastic polymers to metals has prompted the extension of techniques used in metalworking. Sheet forming, used since the 19th century by metallurgists, is now applied to the processing of thermoplastic composites. In a typical thermoforming process, the sheet stock, or preform, is heated in an oven. At the forming temperature, the sheet is transferred into a forming system, where it is forced to conform to a tool, with a shape that matches the finished part. After forming, the sheet is cooled under pressure and then removed. Stretch forming, a variation on thermoplastic sheet forming, is specifically designed to take advantage of the extensibility, or ability to be stretched, of thermoplastics reinforced with long, discontinuous fibres. In this process, a straight preconsolidated beam is heated and then stretched over a shaped tool to introduce curvature. The specific advantage of stretch forming is that it provides an automated way to achieve a very high degree of fibre-orientation control in a wide range of part sizes.

Metal-matrix and ceramic-matrix composites
      The requirement that finished parts be able to operate at temperatures high enough to melt or degrade a polymer matrix creates the need for other types of matrix materials, often metals. Metal matrices offer not only high-temperature resistance but also strength and ductility, or “bendability,” which increases toughness. The main problems with metal-matrix composites (MMCs) are that even the lightest metals are heavier than polymers, and they are very complex to process. MMCs can be used in such areas as the skin of a hypersonic aircraft, but on wing edges and in engines temperatures often exceed the melting point of metals. For the latter applications, ceramic-matrix composites (CMCs) are seeing increasing use, although the technology for CMCs is less mature than that for PMCs. Ceramics consist of alumina, silica, zirconia, and other elements refined from fine earth and sand or of synthetic materials, such as silicon nitride or silicon carbide. The desirable properties of ceramics include superior heat resistance and low abrasive and corrosive properties. Their primary drawback is brittleness, which can be reduced by reinforcing with fibres or whiskers. The reinforcement material can be a metal or another ceramic.

      Unlike polymers and metals, which can be processed by techniques that involve melting (or softening) followed by solidification, high-temperature ceramics cannot be melted. They are generally produced by some variation of sintering, a technique that renders a combination of materials into a coherent mass by heating to high temperatures without complete melting. If continuous fibres or textile weaves (as opposed to short fibres or whiskers) are involved, sintering is preceded by impregnating the assembly of fibres with a slurry of ceramic particles dispersed in a liquid. A major benefit of using CMCs in aircraft engines is that they allow higher operating temperatures and thus greater combustion efficiency, leading to reduced fuel consumption. An additional benefit is derived from the low density of CMCs, which translates into substantial weight savings.

Other advanced composites
      Carbon-carbon composites are closely related to CMCs but differ in the methods by which they are produced. Carbon-carbon composites consist of semicrystalline carbon fibres embedded in a matrix of amorphous carbon. The composite begins as a PMC, with semicrystalline carbon fibres impregnated with a polymeric phenolic resin. The resin-soaked system is heated in an inert atmosphere to pyrolyze, or char, the polymer to a carbon residue. The composite is re-impregnated with polymer, and the pyrolysis is repeated. Continued repetition of this impregnation/pyrolysis process yields a structure with minimal voids. Carbon-carbon composites retain their strength at 2,500° C (4,500° F) and are used in the nose cones of reentry vehicles. However, because they are vulnerable to oxidation at such high temperatures, they must be protected by a thin layer of ceramic.

      While materials research for aerospace applications has focused largely on mechanical properties such as stiffness and strength, other attributes are important for use in space. Materials are needed with a near-zero coefficient of thermal expansion; in other words, they have to be thermally stable and should not expand and contract when exposed to extreme changes in temperature. A great deal of research is focused on developing such materials for high-speed civilian aircraft, where thermal cycling is a major issue. High-toughness materials and nonflammable resin composite systems are also under investigation to improve the safety of aircraft interiors.

      Efforts are also being directed toward the development of “smart,” or responsive, materials. Representing another attempt to mimic certain characteristics of living organisms, smart materials, with their built-in sensors and actuators, would react to their external environment by bringing on a desired response. This would be done by linking the mechanical, electrical, and magnetic properties of these materials. For example, piezoelectric materials generate an electrical current (electric current) when they are bent; conversely, when an electrical current is passed through these materials, they stiffen. This property can be used to suppress vibration: the electrical current generated during vibration could be detected, amplified, and sent back, causing the material to stiffen and stop vibrating.

R.L. McCullough Diane S. Kukich

Materials for computers (computer) and communications (telecommunication)
      The basic function of computers and communications systems is to process and transmit information in the form of signals representing data, speech, sound, documents, and visual images. These signals are created, transmitted, and processed as moving electrons (electron) or photons (photon), and so the basic materials groups involved are classified as electronic and photonic. In some cases, materials known as optoelectronic bridge these two classes, combining abilities to interact usefully with both electrons and photons.

      Among the electronic materials are various crystalline semiconductors; metalized film conductors; dielectric films; solders; ceramics and polymers formed into substrates on which circuits are assembled or printed; and gold or copper wiring and cabling.

      Photonic materials include a number of compound semiconductors designed for light emission or detection; elemental dopants that serve as photonic performance-control agents; metal- or diamond-film heat sinks; metalized films for contacts, physical barriers, and bonding; and silica glass, ceramics, and rare earths for optical fibres.

Electronic materials
      Between 1955 and 1990, improvements and innovations in semiconductor technology increased the performance and decreased the cost of electronic materials and devices by a factor of one million—an achievement unparalleled in the history of any technology. Along with this extraordinary explosion of technology has come an exponentially upward spiral of the capital investment necessary for manufacturing operations. In order to maintain cost-effectiveness and flexibility, radical changes in materials and manufacturing operations will be necessary.

Semiconductor crystals

      Bulk semiconductor silicon for the manufacture of integrated circuits (integrated circuit) (sometimes referred to as electronic-grade silicon) is the purest material ever made commercially in large quantities. One of the most important factors in preparing this material is control of such impurities as boron, phosphorus, and carbon (not to be confused with the dopants added later during circuit production). For the ultimate levels of integrated-circuit design, stray contaminant atoms must constitute less than 0.1 part per trillion of the material.

      For fabrication into integrated circuits, bulk semiconductor silicon must be in the form of a single-crystal material with high crystalline perfection and the desired charge-carrier concentration. The size of the silicon ingot, or boule, has been scaled up in recent years, in order to provide wafers of increasing diameter that are demanded by the economics of integrated-circuit manufacturing. Most commonly, a 60-kilogram (130-pound) charge is grown to an ingot with a diameter of 200 millimetres (8 inches), but the semiconductor industry will soon require ingots as large as 300 millimetres. The ingots are then converted into wafers by machining and chemical processes.

III–V compounds
      Although silicon is by far the most commonly used crystal material for integrated circuits, a significant volume of semiconductor devices and circuits employs III–V technology, so named because it is based on crystalline compounds formed by combining metallic elements from column III and nonmetallic elements from column V of the periodic table of chemical elements. When the elements are gallium and arsenic, the semiconductor is called gallium arsenide, or GaAs. However, other elements such as indium, phosphorus, and aluminum are often used in the compound to achieve specific performance characteristics.

      For electronic applications, the III–V semiconductors offer the basic advantage of higher electron mobility, which translates into higher operating speeds. In addition, devices made with III–V compounds provide lower voltage operation for specific functions, radiation hardness (especially important for satellites and space vehicles), and semi-insulating substrates (avoiding the presence of parasitic capacitance in switching devices).

      III–V materials are more difficult to handle than silicon, and a III–V wafer or substrate usually is less than half the size of a silicon wafer. In addition, a gallium arsenide wafer entering the processing facility can be expected to cost 10 to 20 times as much as a silicon wafer, although that cost difference narrows somewhat after fabrication, packaging, and testing. Nevertheless, there is one major characteristic of III–V materials with which silicon cannot compete: a III–V compound can be tailored to generate or detect photons of a specific wavelength. For example, an indium gallium arsenide phosphide (InGaAsP) laser can generate radiation at 1.55 micrometres to carry digitally coded information streams. (See below Photonic materials (materials science).) This means that a III–V component can fill both electronic and photonic functions in the same integrated circuit.

Photoresist films
      Patterning polished wafers with an integrated circuit requires the use of photoresist materials that form thin coatings on the wafer before each step of the photolithographic process. Modern photoresists are polymeric materials that are modified when exposed to radiation (either in the form of visible, ultraviolet, or X-ray photons or in the form of energetic electron beams). A photoresist typically contains a photoactive compound (PAC) and an alkaline-soluble resin. The PAC, mixed into the resin, renders it insoluble. This mixture is coated onto the semiconductor wafer and is then exposed to radiation through a “mask” that carries the desired pattern. Exposed PAC is converted into an acid that renders the resin soluble, so that the resist can be dissolved and the exposed substrate beneath it chemically etched or metallically coated to match the circuit design.

      Besides practical properties such as shelf life, cost, and availability, the key properties of a photoresist include purity, etching resistance, resolution, contrast, and sensitivity. As the feature sizes of integrated circuits shrink in each successive generation of microchips, photoresist materials are challenged to handle shorter wavelengths of light. For example, the photolithography of current designs (with features that have shrunk to less than one micrometre) is based on ultraviolet radiation in the wavelength range of 365 to 436 nanometres, but, in order to define accurately the smaller features of future microchips (less than 0.25 micrometre), shorter wavelengths will be necessary. The problem here is that electromagnetic radiation in such frequency regions is weaker. One solution is to use the chemically amplified photoresist, or CAMP. The sensitivity of a photoresist is measured by its quantum efficiency, or the number of chemical events that occur when a photon is absorbed by the material. In CAMP material, the number of events is dramatically increased by subsequent chemical reactions (hence the amplification), which means that less light is needed to complete the process.

Electric connections
      The performance of today's electronic systems (and photonic systems as well) is limited significantly by interconnection technology, in which components and subsystems are linked by conductors and connectors. Currently, very fine gold or copper wiring, as thin as 30 micrometres, is used to carry electric current to and from the many pads along the sides or ends of a microchip to other components on a circuit board. The capacitance involved in such circuitry slows down the flow of electrons and, hence, of information. However, by integrating several chips into a single multichip module, in which the chips are connected on a shared substrate by various conducting materials (such as metalized film), the speed of information flow can be increased, thus improving the assembly's performance. Ideally, all the chips in a single module would be fabricated simultaneously on the same wafer, but in practice this is not feasible: Silicon crystal manufacture is still subject to an average of one flaw per wafer, meaning that at least one of the many chips cut from each wafer is scrapped. If the whole wafer area were dedicated to a single multifunction assembly, that one flaw would scrap the entire module. Multichip modules are therefore made up of as many as five microchips bonded to a silicon or ceramic substrate on which resistors and capacitors have been constructed with thin films. Typical materials used in a multichip module include the substrate; gold paste conductors applied in an additive process resembling silk screen printing; vitreous glazes to insulate the gold paste conductors from subsequent film layers; a series of thin films made with tantalum nitride, titanium, palladium, and plated gold; and a final package of silicone rubber.

packaging materials
      Several major types of packaging material are used by the electronics industry, including ceramic (advanced ceramics), refractory glass, premolded plastic, and postmolded plastic. Ceramic and glass packages cost more than plastic packages, so they make up less than 10 percent of the worldwide total. However, they provide the best protection for complex chips. Premolded plastic packages account for only a small but important fraction of the market, since they are required for packaging devices with many leads. Most plastic packages are postmolded, meaning that the package body is molded over the assembly after the microchip has been attached to the fan-out pattern.

      The starting materials for most semiconductor devices are volatile and ultrapure gaseous derivatives of various organic and inorganic precursors. Many of them are toxic, and many will ignite spontaneously in the atmosphere. These gases are transported in high-pressure cylinders from the plant where they were made to the site where they will be used. One possible method of replacing these precursors with materials that are environmentally safe is known as in situ synthesis. In this method, dangerous reagents would be generated on demand in only the desired quantities, instead of being shipped cross-country and stored until needed at the semiconductor processing plant.

Photonic materials
      Computers and communications systems have been dominated by electronic technology since their beginnings, but photonic technology is making serious inroads throughout the information movement and management systems with such devices as lasers, light-emitting diodes, photodetecting diodes, optical switches, optical amplifiers, optical modulators, and optical fibres. Indeed, for long-distance terrestrial and transoceanic transmission of information, photonics has almost completely displaced electronics.

Crystalline (crystal) materials
      The light detectors and generators listed above are actually optoelectronic, because they link photonic and electronic systems. They employ the III–V compound semiconductors described above, many of them characterized by their band gaps—i.e., the energy minimum of the electron conduction band and the energy maximum of hole valence bands occur at the same location in the momentum space, allowing electrons and holes to recombine and radiate photons efficiently. (By contrast, the conduction band minimum and the valence band maximum in silicon have dissimilar momenta, and therefore the electrons and holes cannot recombine efficiently.) Among the important compounds are gallium arsenide, aluminum gallium arsenide, indium gallium arsenide phosphide, indium phosphide, and aluminum indium arsenide.

      Fabricating a single crystal from these combinations of elements is far more difficult than creating a single crystal of electronic-grade silicon. Special furnaces are required, and the process can take several days. Notwithstanding the precision involved, the sausage-shaped boule is less than half the diameter of a silicon ingot and is subject to a much higher rate of defects. Researchers are continuously seeking ways to reduce the thermal stresses that are primarily responsible for dislocations in the III–V crystal lattice that cause these defects. The purity and structural perfection of the final single-crystal substrates affect the qualities of the crystalline layers that are grown on them and the regions that are diffused or implanted in them during the manufacture of photonic devices.

Epitaxial layers
      For the efficient emission or detection of photons, it is often necessary to constrain these processes to very thin semiconductor layers. These thin layers, grown atop bulk semiconductor wafers, are called epitaxial (epitaxy) layers because their crystallinity matches that of the substrate even though the composition of the materials may differ—e.g., gallium aluminum arsenide (GaAlAs) grown atop a gallium arsenide substrate. The resulting layers form what is called a heterostructure. Most continuously operating semiconductor lasers consist of heterostructures, a simple example consisting of 1000-angstrom thick gallium arsenide layers sandwiched between somewhat thicker (about 10000 angstroms) layers of gallium aluminum arsenide—all grown epitaxially on a gallium arsenide substrate. The sandwiching and repeating of very thin layers of a semiconductor between layers of a different composition allow one to modify the band gap of the sandwiched layer. This technique, called band-gap engineering, permits the creation of semiconductor materials with properties that cannot be found in nature. Band-gap engineering, used extensively with III–V compound semiconductors, can also be applied to elemental semiconductors such as silicon and germanium.

      The most precise method of growing epitaxial layers on a semiconducting substrate is molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE). In this technique, a stream or beam of atoms or molecules is effused from a common source and travels across a vacuum to strike a heated crystal surface, forming a layer that has the same crystal structure as the substrate. Variations of MBE include elemental-source MBE, hydride-source MBE, gas-source MBE, and metal-organic MBE. Other approaches to epitaxial growth are liquid-phase epitaxy (LPE) or chemical vapour deposition (CVD). The latter method includes hydride CVD, trichloride CVD, and metal-organic CVD.

      Normally, epitaxial layers are grown on flat surfaces, but scientists are searching for an economical and reliable method of growing epitaxial material on nonplanar structures—for example, around the “mesas” or “ridges” or in the “tubs” or “channels” that are etched into the surface of semiconducting devices. Nonplanar epitaxy is considered necessary for producing monolithic integrated optical devices or all-photonic switches and logic elements, but mastery of this method requires better understanding of the surface chemistry and surface dynamics of epitaxial growth.

      Research in this area is driven by the need to switch data streams of higher and higher speed efficiently as customers for computer and communications services demand transmission and switching rates far higher than can be provided by a purely electronic system. Thanks to developments in semiconductor lasers and detectors (described above Epitaxial layers (materials science)) and in optical fibres (described below Optical transmission (materials science)), transmission at the desired high speeds has become possible. However, the switching of optical data streams still requires converting the data from the optical to the electronic domain, subjecting them to electronic switching and to manipulation inside the switching apparatus, and then reconverting the switched and reconfigured data into the optical domain for transmission over optical fibres. Electronic switching therefore is seen as the principal barrier to achieving higher switching speeds. One approach to solving this problem would be to introduce optics inside digital switching machines. Known as free-space photonics, this approach would involve such devices as semiconductor lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), optical modulators, and photodetectors—all of which would be integrated into systems combined with electronic components.

      One commercially available device for photonic switching is the quantum-well self-electro-optic-effect device, or SEED. The key concept for this device is the use of quantum wells. These structures consist of many thin layers of two different semiconductor materials. Individual layers are typically 10 nanometres (about 40 atoms) thick, and 100 layers are used in a device about 1 micrometre thick. When a voltage is applied across the layers, the transmission of photons through the quantum wells changes significantly, in effect creating an optical modulator—an essential component of any photonic circuit. Variations on the SEED concept are the symmetric SEED (S-SEED) and the field-effect transistor SEED. Neighbouring S-SEEDs could be connected by pairs of back-to-back quantum-well photodiodes, and commercially sized interconnection networks could be built by using free-space photonic interconnections between two-dimensional arrays of switching nodes. However, even this type of free-space optical interconnection technology would only enhance and extend electronic technology, not replace it.

      The move of optoelectronic and photonic integrated circuits out of the research laboratory and into the marketplace has been made possible by the availability of high-quality epitaxial growth techniques for building up lattice-matched crystalline layers of indium gallium arsenide phosphide and indium phosphide (InGaAsP/InP). This III–V compound system is central to the light emitters and detectors used in the 1.3-micrometre and 1.5-micrometre wavelength ranges at which optical fibre has very low transmission loss.

Optical transmission
      As the rates of transmission are increased from millions of bits (megabits) per second to billions of bits (gigabits) per second, commercially available lasers encounter a physical limitation called “chirping,” in which the optical frequency of the laser begins to waver during a pulse. Future systems, which may require from 2.4 to 30 gigabits per second, are probably going to be based on the use of a continuously operating distributed-feedback laser, whose output will be modulated in intensity by passing it through a modulator. This device consists of a crystal substrate of lithium niobate onto which a titanium channel is diffused to function as a light guide. The signal is encoded onto the light beam via a microwave radio-frequency feed through neighbouring channels in the coupler. Such a device is used only at the transmitter end of the optical path.

      Both communications and computer systems rely on silica glass fibres to transmit light signals from lasers and LEDs. For long-distance transmission, optical-fibre cables are usually equipped with electro-optical repeater assemblies approximately every 100 kilometres. A new approach, called optical amplifiers, has been developed for deployment in transoceanic (undersea cable) fibre-optic cables. Unlike traditional repeaters, optical amplifiers work by adding photons to a light signal without changing it to an electrical signal and without changing its bit-rate. Since they can be used at any desired transmission bit-rate, a transoceanic cable equipped with these devices can be upgraded to higher bit-rates simply by changing the lasers and photodiodes at each end. No retrofitting of higher bit-rate amplifiers is necessary.

      The optical amplifier is a module containing a semiconductor pump laser and a short length of optical fibre whose core has been doped with less than 0.1 percent erbium, an optically active rare-earth element. The pump laser is powered by an electrical conductor that runs the length of the cable. The amplifier functions by converting the optical energy generated by the pump source into signal photon energy. When a signal-carrying stream of laser pulses passes through the optical amplifier, it is combined with the pump light through a wavelength division multiplexer located in the module. The combined signal is fed through the erbium-doped fibre length, where the excited erbium ions contribute photons coherently to the signal. The amplified signal is then fed to the next section of cable for transmission to the next optical amplifier, perhaps 200 to 300 kilometres away.

C. Kumar N. Patel

Materials for medicine
      The treatment of many human disease (human disease) conditions requires surgical intervention in order to assist, augment, sustain, or replace a diseased organ, and such procedures involve the use of materials foreign to the body. These materials, known as biomaterials, include synthetic polymers and, to a lesser extent, biological polymers, metals, and ceramics. Specific applications of biomaterials range from high-volume products such as blood bags, syringes, and needles to more challenging implantable devices designed to augment or replace a diseased human organ. The latter devices are used in cardiovascular, orthopedic, and dental applications as well as in a wide range of invasive treatment and diagnostic systems. Many of these devices have made possible notable clinical successes. For example, in cardiovascular applications, thousands of lives have been saved by heart valves, heart pacemakers, and large-diameter vascular grafts, and orthopedic hip-joint replacements have shown great long-term success in the treatment of patients suffering from debilitating joint diseases. With such a tremendous increase in medical applications, demand for a wide range of biomaterials grows by 5 to 15 percent each year. In the United States the annual market for surgical implants exceeds $10 billion, approximately 10 percent of world demand.

      Nevertheless, applications of biomaterials are limited by biocompatibility, the problem of adverse interactions arising at the junction between the biomaterial and the host tissue. Optimizing the interactions that occur at the surface of implanted biomaterials represents the most significant key to further advances, and an excellent basis for these advances can be found in the growing understanding of complex biological materials and in the development of novel biomaterials custom-designed at the molecular level for specific medical applications.

      This section describes biomaterials that are used in medicine, with emphasis on polymer materials and on the challenges associated with implantable devices used in the cardiovascular and orthopedic areas.

General requirements of biomaterials
      Research on developing new biomaterials is an interdisciplinary effort, often involving collaboration among materials scientists and engineers, biomedical engineers, pathologists, and clinicians to solve clinical problems. The design or selection of a specific biomaterial depends on the relative importance of the various properties that are required for the intended medical application. Physical properties that are generally considered include hardness, tensile strength, modulus, and elongation; fatigue strength, which is determined by a material's response to cyclic loads or strains; impact properties; resistance to abrasion and wear; long-term dimensional stability, which is described by a material's viscoelastic properties; swelling in aqueous media; and permeability to gases, water, and small biomolecules. In addition, biomaterials are exposed to human tissues and fluids, so that predicting the results of possible interactions between host and material is an important and unique consideration in using synthetic materials in medicine. Two particularly important issues in biocompatibility are thrombosis, which involves blood coagulation and the adhesion of blood platelets to biomaterial surfaces, and the fibrous-tissue encapsulation of biomaterials that are implanted in soft tissues.

      Poor selection of materials can lead to clinical problems. One example of this situation was the choice of silicone rubber as a poppet in an early heart valve design. The silicone absorbed lipid from plasma and swelled sufficiently to become trapped between the metal struts of the valve. Another unfortunate choice as a biomaterial was Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene) (trademark), which is noted for its low coefficient of friction and its chemical inertness but which has relatively poor abrasion resistance. Thus, as an occluder in a heart valve or as an acetabular cup in a hip-joint prosthesis, Teflon may eventually wear to such an extent that the device would fail. In addition, degradable polyesterurethane foam was abandoned as a fixation patch for breast prostheses, because it offered a distinct possibility for the release of carcinogenic by-products as it degraded.

      Besides their constituent polymer molecules, synthetic biomaterials may contain several additives, such as unreacted monomers and catalysts, inorganic fillers or organic plasticizers, antioxidants and stabilizers, and processing lubricants or mold-release agents on the material's surface. In addition, several degradation products may result from the processing, sterilization, storage, and ultimately implantation of a device. Many additives are beneficial—for example, the silica filler that is indispensable in silicone rubber for good mechanical performance or the antioxidants and stabilizers that prevent premature oxidative degradation of polyetherurethanes. Other additives, such as pigments, can be eliminated from biomedical products. Indeed, a “medical-grade” biomaterial is one that has had nonessential additives and potential contaminants excluded or eliminated from the polymer. In order to achieve this grade, the polymer may need to be solvent-extracted before use, thereby eliminating low-molecular-weight materials. Generally, additives in polymers are regarded with extreme suspicion, because it is often the additives rather than the constituent polymer molecules that are the source of adverse biocompatibility.

Polymer biomaterials
      The majority of biomaterials used in humans are synthetic polymers such as the polyurethanes or Dacron (trademark; chemical name polyethylene terephthalate), rather than polymers of biological origin such as proteins or polysaccharides. The properties of common synthetic biomaterials vary widely, from the soft and delicate water-absorbing hydrogels made into contact lenses to the resilient elastomers found in short- and long-term cardiovascular devices or the high-strength acrylics used in orthopedics and dentistry. The properties of any material are governed by its chemical composition and by the intra- and intermolecular forces that dictate its molecular organization. Macromolecular structure in turn affects macroscopic properties and, ultimately, the interfacial behaviour of the material in contact with blood or host tissues.

      Since the properties of each material are dependent on the chemical structure and macromolecular organization of its polymer chains, an understanding of some common structural features of various polymers provides considerable insight into their properties. Compared with complex biological molecules, synthetic polymers are relatively simple; often they comprise only one type of repeating subunit, analogous to a polypeptide consisting of just one repeating amino acid. On the basis of common structures and properties, synthetic polymers are classified into one of three categories: elastomers, which include natural and synthetic rubbers; thermoplastics; and thermosets. The properties that provide the basis for this classification include molecular weight, cross-link density, percent crystallinity, thermal transition temperature, and bulk mechanical properties.

Elastomers (elastomer)
      Elastomers, which include rubber materials, have found wide use as biomaterials in cardiovascular and soft-tissue applications owing to their high elasticity, impact resistance, and gas permeability. Applications of elastomers include flexible tubing for pacemaker leads, vascular grafts, and catheters; biocompatible coatings and pumping diaphragms for artificial hearts and left-ventricular assist devices; grafts for reconstructive surgery and maxillofacial operations; wound dressings; breast prostheses; and membranes for implantable biosensors.

      Elastomers are typically amorphous with low cross-link density (although linear polyurethane block copolymers are an important exception). This gives them low to moderate modulus and tensile properties as well as high elasticity. For example, elastomeric devices can be extended by 100 to 1,000 percent of their initial dimensions without causing any permanent deformation to the material. Silicone rubbers such as Silastic (trademark), produced by the American manufacturer Dow Corning, Inc., are cross-linked, so that they cannot be melted or dissolved—although swelling may occur in the presence of a good solvent. Such properties contrast with those of the linear polyurethane elastomers, which consist of soft polyether amorphous segments and hard urethane-containing glassy or crystalline segments. The two segments are incompatible at room temperature and undergo microphase separation, forming hard domains dispersed in an amorphous matrix. A key feature of this macromolecular organization is that the hard domains serve as physical cross-links and reinforcing filler. This results in elastomeric materials that possess relatively high modulus and extraordinary long-term stability under sustained cyclic loading. In addition, they can be processed by methods common to thermoplastics.

      Many common thermoplastics, such as polyethylene and polyester, are used as biomaterials. Thermoplastics usually exhibit moderate to high tensile strength (5 to 1,000 megapascals) with moderate elongation (2 to 100 percent), and they undergo plastic deformation at high strains. Thermoplastics consist of linear or branched polymer chains; consequently, most can undergo reversible melt-solid transformation on heating, which allows for relatively easy processing or reprocessing. Depending on the structure and molecular organization of the polymer chains, thermoplastics may be amorphous (e.g., polystyrene), semicrystalline (e.g., low-density polyethylene), or highly crystalline (e.g., high-density polyethylene), or they may be processed into highly crystalline textile fibres (e.g., polyester Dacron).

      Some thermoplastic biomaterials, such as polylactic acid and polyglycolic acid, are polymers based on a repeating amino acid subunit. These polypeptides are biodegradable, and, along with biodegradable polyesters and polyorthoesters, they have applications in absorbable sutures and drug-release systems. The rate of biodegradation in the body can be adjusted by using copolymers. These are polymers that link two different monomer subunits into a single polymer chain. The resultant biomaterial exhibits properties, including biodegradation, that are intermediate between the two homopolymers.

      Thermosetting polymers find only limited application in medicine, but their characteristic properties, which combine high strength and chemical resistance, are useful for some orthopedic and dental devices. Thermosetting polymers such as epoxies and acrylics are chemically inert, and they also have high modulus and tensile properties with negligible elongation (1 to 2 percent). The polymer chains in these materials are highly cross-linked and therefore have severely restricted macromolecular mobility; this limits extension of the polymer chains under an applied load. As a result, thermosets are strong but brittle materials.

      Cross-linking inhibits close packing of polymer chains, preventing formation of crystalline regions. Another consequence of extensive cross-linking is that thermosets do not undergo solid-melt transformation on heating, so that they cannot be melted or reprocessed.

Applications of biomaterials
 Biomaterials are used in many blood-contacting devices. These include artificial heart valves, synthetic vascular grafts, ventricular assist devices, drug-release systems, extracorporeal systems, and a wide range of invasive treatment and diagnostic systems. An important issue in the design and selection of materials is the hemodynamic conditions in the vicinity of the device. For example, mechanical heart valve implants are intended for long-term use. Consequently, the hinge points of each valve leaflet and the materials must have excellent wear and fatigue resistance in order to open and close 80 times per minute for many years after implantation. In addition, the open valve must minimize disturbances to blood flow as blood passes from the left ventricle of the heart, through the heart valve, and into the ascending aorta of the arterial vascular system. To this end, the bileaflet valve disks of one type of implant are coated with pyrolytic carbon, which provides a relatively smooth, chemically inert surface. This is an important property, because surface roughness will cause turbulence in the blood flow, which in turn may lead to hemolysis of red cells, provide sites for adventitious bacterial adhesion and subsequent colonization, and, in areas of blood stasis, promote thrombosis and blood coagulation. The carbon-coated holding ring of this implant is covered with Dacron mesh fabric so that the surgeon can sew and fix the device to adjacent cardiac tissues. Furthermore, the porous structure of the Dacron mesh promotes tissue integration, which occurs over a period of weeks after implantation.

      While the possibility of thrombosis can be minimized in blood-contacting biomaterials, it cannot be eliminated entirely. For this reason, patients who receive artificial heart valves or other blood-contacting devices also receive anticoagulation (anticoagulant) therapy. This is needed because all foreign surfaces initiate blood coagulation and platelet adhesion to some extent. Platelets are circulating cellular components of blood, two to four micrometres in size, that attach to foreign surfaces and actively participate in blood coagulation and thrombus formation. Research on new biomaterials for cardiovascular applications is largely devoted to understanding thrombus formation and to developing novel surfaces for biomaterials that will provide improved blood compatibility.

      Synthetic vascular graft materials are used to patch injured or diseased areas of arteries (artery), for replacement of whole segments of larger arteries such as the aorta, and for use as sewing cuffs (as with the heart valve mentioned above). Such materials need to be flexible to allow for the difficulties of implantation and to avoid irritating adjacent tissues; also, the internal diameter of the graft should remain constant under a wide range of flexing and bending conditions, and the modulus or compliance of the vessel should be similar to that of the natural vessel. These aims are largely achieved by crimped woven Dacron and expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). Crimping of Dacron in processing results in a porous vascular graft that may be bent 180° or twisted without collapsing the internal diameter.

      A biomaterial used for blood vessel replacement will be in contact not only with blood but also with adjacent soft tissues. Experience with different materials has shown that tissue growth into the interstices of the biomaterials aids healing and integration of the material with host tissue after implantation. In order for the tissue, which consists mostly of collagen, to grow in the graft, the vascular graft must have an open structure with pores at least 10 micrometres in diameter. These pores allow new blood capillaries that develop during healing to grow into the graft, and the blood then provides oxygen and other nutrients for fibroblasts (fibroblast) and other cells to survive in the biomaterial matrix. Fibroblasts synthesize the structural protein tropocollagen, which is needed in the development of new fibrous tissue as part of the healing response to a surgical wound.

      Occasionally, excessive tissue growth may be observed at the anastomosis, which is where the graft is sewn to the native artery. This is referred to as internal hyperplasia and is thought to result from differences in compliance between the graft and the host vessels. In addition, in order to optimize compatibility of the biomaterial with the blood, the synthetic graft eventually should be coated with a confluent layer of host endothelial cells, but this does not occur with current materials. Therefore, most proposed modifications to existing graft materials involve potential improvements in blood compatibility.

      Artificial heart valves and vascular grafts, while not ideal, have been used successfully and have saved many thousands of lives. However, the risk of thrombosis has limited the success of existing cardiovascular devices and has restricted potential application of the biomaterials to other devices. For example, there is an urgent clinical need for blood-compatible, synthetic vascular grafts of small diameter in peripheral vascular surgery—e.g., in the legs—but this is currently impracticable with existing biomaterials because of the high risk of thrombotic occlusion. Similarly, progress with implantable miniature sensors, designed to measure a wide range of blood conditions continuously, has been impeded because of problems directly attributable to the failure of existing biomaterials. With such biocompatibility problems resolved, biomedical sensors would provide a very important contribution to medical diagnosis and monitoring. Considerable advances have been made in the ability to manipulate molecular architecture at the surfaces of materials by using chemisorbed or physisorbed monolayer films. Such progress in surface modification, combined with the development of nanoscale probes that permit examination at the molecular and submolecular level, provide a strong basis for optimism in the development of specialty biomaterials with improved blood compatibility.

 Joint (joint disease) replacements, particularly at the hip, and bone fixation devices have become very successful applications of materials in medicine. The use of pins, plates, and screws for bone fixation to aid recovery of bone fractures has become routine, with the number of annual procedures approaching five million in the United States alone. In joint replacement, typical patients are age 55 or older and suffer from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or osteoporosis. Orthopedic surgeries for artificial joints exceed 1.5 million each year, with actual joint replacement accounting for about half of the procedures. A major focus of research is the development of new biomaterials for artificial joints intended for younger, more active patients.

      Hip-joint (hip) replacements are principally used for structural support. Consequently, they are dominated by materials that possess high strength, such as metals, tough plastics, and reinforced polymer-matrix composites. In addition, biomaterials used for orthopedic applications must have high modulus, long-term dimensional stability, high fatigue resistance, long-term biostability, excellent abrasion resistance, and biocompatibility (i.e., there should be no adverse tissue response to the implanted device). Early developments in this field used readily available materials such as stainless steels, but evidence of corrosion after implantation led to their replacement by more stable materials, particularly titanium alloys, cobalt-chromium-molybdenum alloys, and carbon fibre-reinforced polymer composites. A typical modern artificial hip consists of a nitrided and highly polished cobalt-chromium ball connected to a titanium alloy stem that is inserted into the femur and cemented into place by in situ polymerization of polymethylmethacrylate. The articulating component of the joint consists of an acetabular cup made of tough, creep-resistant, ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene. Abrasion at the ball-and-cup interface can lead to the production of wear particles, which in turn can lead to significant inflammatory reaction by the host. Consequently, much research on the development of hip-joint materials has been devoted to optimizing the properties of the articulating components in order to eliminate surface wear. Other modifications include porous coatings made by sintering the metal surface or coatings of wire mesh or hydroxyapatite; these promote bone growth and integration between the implant and the host, eliminating the need for an acrylic bone cement.

      While the strength of the biomaterials is important, another goal is to match the mechanical properties of the implant materials with those of the bone in order to provide a uniform distribution of stresses (stress) (load sharing). If a bone is loaded insufficiently, the stress distribution will be made asymmetric, and this will lead to adaptive remodeling with cortical thinning and increased porosity of the bone. Such lessons in structure hierarchy and in the structure-property relationships of materials have been obtained from studies on biologic composite materials, and they are being translated into new classes of synthetic biomaterials. One development is carbon fibre-reinforced polymer-matrix composites. Typical matrix polymers include polysulfone and polyetheretherketones. The strength of these composites is lower than that of metals, but it more closely approximates that of bone.

Roger Eric Marchant

Additional Reading

General works
Overviews of the properties and production of all engineering materials can be found in the following texts: James F. Shackelford, Introduction to Materials Science for Engineers, 3rd ed. (1992); William D. Callister, Jr., Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (1991); Richard A. Flinn and Paul K. Trojan, Engineering Materials and Their Applications, 4th ed. (1990); Donald R. Askeland, The Science and Engineering of Materials, 2nd ed. (1989); and Michael F. Ashby and David R.H. Jones, Engineering Materials: An Introduction to Their Properties and Applications (1980), readable even for those with no previous materials science background and providing clearly described examples of innovative ways to use materials. Materials Science and Engineering for the 1990s (1989) comprehensively describes new directions to be taken in materials science; it is written in a readily comprehensible manner by members of committees of the National Research Council (U.S.). An entire issue of Advanced Materials & Processes, vol. 141, no. 1 (January 1992), is devoted to a forecast of developments in various materials, trends in materials processing, and advances in testing and characterization of materials. Michael B. Bever (ed.), Encyclopedia of Materials Science and Engineering, 8 vol. (1986), with supplementary vols., is a comprehensive reference work.

Materials for energy
Three journal articles on the topic are Richard S. Claasen and Louis A. Girifalco, “Materials for Energy Utilization,” Scientific American, 255(4):102–104, 109–112, 117 (October 1986); Richard S. Claasen, “Materials for Advanced Energy Technologies,” Science, 191(4227):739–745 (Feb. 20, 1976); and Bernard L. Cohen, “The Disposal of Radioactive Wastes from Fission Reactors,” Scientific American, 236(6):21–31 (June 1977).

Materials for ground transportation
A lucid account of the shift away from conventional steels in modern automobiles is found in the excellent introductory article by W. Dale Compton and Norman A. Gjostein, “Materials for Ground Transportation,” Scientific American, 255(4):92–100 (October 1986). Karen Wright, “The Shape of Things to Go,” Scientific American, 262(5):92–101 (May 1990), projects the effect of advanced technology on automobiles of the future.

Materials for aerospace
An overview is found in Morris A. Steinberg, “Materials for Aerospace,” Scientific American, 255(4):66–72 (October 1986). An entire issue of Advanced Materials & Processes, vol. 137, no. 4 (April 1990), is devoted to aerospace materials and applications. A special section on frontiers in materials science in Science, 255(5048):1077–1112 (Feb. 28, 1992), discusses polymers and aircraft engine materials, among other subjects.Works on composites include Tsu-Wei Chou, Roy L. McCullough, and R. Byron Pipes, “Composites,” Scientific American, 255(4):192–203 (October 1986); Roy L. McCullough, Concepts of Fiber-Resin Composites (1971); Stephen W. Tsai and H. Thomas Hahn, Introduction to Composite Materials (1980); and Jack R. Vinson and Tsu-Wei Chou, Composite Materials and Their Use in Structures (1975).

Materials for communications
A useful introduction is by John S. Mayo, “Materials for Information and Communication,” Scientific American, 255(4):58–66 (October 1986). Discussions of electronic and photonic materials may be found in the following essays, all from AT&T Technical Journal: in vol. 69, no. 6 (November/December 1990), see C. Kumar N. Patel, “Materials and Processing: Core Competencies and Strategic Resources,” pp. 2–8; Kenneth E. Benson, Lionel C. Kimerling, and Peter T. Panousis, “Reaching the Limits in Silicon Processing,” pp. 16–31; Elsa Reichmanis and Larry F. Thompson, “Challenges in Lithographic Materials and Processes,” pp. 32–45; and James W. Mitchell, Jorge Luis Valdes, and Gardy Cadet, “Benign Precursors for Semiconductor Processing,” pp. 101–112; in vol. 68, no. 1 (January/February 1989), see Jim E. Clemans et al., “Bulk III-V Compound Semiconductor Crystal Growth,” pp. 29–42; and W. Dexter Johnston, Jr., Michael A. Diguiseppe, and Daniel P. Wilt, “Liquid and Vapor Phase Growth of III-V Materials for Photonic Devices,” pp. 53–63; and in vol. 71, no. 1 (January/February 1992), see John L. Zyskind et al., “Erbium-Doped Fiber Amplifiers and the Next Generation of Lightwave Systems,” pp. 53–62 .

Materials for medicine
Robert A. Fuller and Jonathan J. Rosen, “Materials for Medicine,” Scientific American, 255(4):118–125 (October 1986), offers an overview of the subject. S.A. Barenberg, “Abridged Report of the Committee to Survey the Needs and Opportunities for the Biomaterials Industry,” Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, 22(12):1267–92 (December 1988), surveys the applications of materials in medicine and highlights projected areas of clinical need. Joon Bu Park, Biomaterials Science and Engineering (1984), provides a qualitative university-level introduction to the field of biomaterials. Michael Szycher (ed.), Biocompatible Polymers, Metals, and Composites (1983), is a collection of detailed review articles that covers materials in medicine and biocompatibility and contains a pragmatic assessment of clinical and commercial aspects, including how to sterilize and package biomaterials. Harry R. Allcock and Frederick W. Lampe, Contemporary Polymer Chemistry, 2nd ed. (1990), is a basic textbook of polymer science, providing a university-level introduction to synthesis and characterization of polymers, including biomedical polymers. Advanced biomaterials texts with emphasis on research include Michael Szycher (ed.), High Performance Biomaterials: A Comprehensive Guide to Medical and Pharmaceutical Applications (1991), research articles covering orthopedic and cardiovascular biomaterials as well as most other areas of materials in medicine; Joseph D. Andrade (ed.), Surface and Interfacial Aspects of Biomedical Polymers, vol. 1, Surface Chemistry and Physics (1985), articles on surface characterization methods applied to biomaterials, including a quantitative presentation of the interactions of blood components (especially proteins) with biomaterial surfaces; Howard P. Greisler, New Biologic and Synthetic Vascular Prostheses (1991), a biological perspective on blood interactions, wound healing, and tissue integration with biomaterials and surface modified materials; D.F. Williams, Blood Compatibility, 2 vol. (1987), detailed review articles covering blood interactions with biomaterials and prosthetic devices and methods of modifying the surface of biomaterials; and H.L. Goldsmith and V.T. Turitto, “Rheological Aspects of Thrombosis and Hemostasis: Basic Principles and Applications,” Thrombosis and Haemostasis, 55(3):415–435 (1986), a detailed and quantitative review article that describes and models blood flow and rheology in the vascular system, including the effects of different blood components.Louis A. Girifalco John D. Venables R.L. McCullough Diane S. Kukich C. Kumar N. Patel Roger Eric Marchant

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