SEP: Materials by Design
Materials by Design is one of the publication themes of the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme. For other publication themes, visit the SEP homepage. The earliest artefacts made by humans used whatever materials were naturally to hand. The materials selected were those that had the appropriate properties for the job that needed to be done. Increasingly, as our understanding of the structure and properties of materials has developed, it has become possible to design materials with appropriate properties. The way in which the properties of metals can be changed by adding other substances to form alloys is described in Metals and Smart Alloys – it uses models to show how behaviour is linked to particle arrangements. The publication also looks at the latest ‘smart alloys’ – materials that can ‘remember’ their shape. Plastics look set to be the material of the future. Fantastic Plastic provides an overview of polymers as they are today and an indication of what they may do in the future, with illustrations of some of their more unusual properties. There is a lot of research currently being undertaken in the textile sector to generate new fibres, fabrics and threads as well as developing new textile treatments. Fibres and Fabrics encourages students to test and research the properties of different threads, fabrics and dyes. Behind the diversity of buildings around us are many choices about construction materials and methods. Building Materials looks at different materials and construction approaches, and how they can be used to create strong structures and maintain comfortable temperatures. Many composite materials have been developed to provide strength and rigidity while being relatively light, but there are also other properties that they can offer. Composites: Designing Materials for the Future provides an overview of some of the types, properties and uses of composite materials. Novel materials have surprising properties which makes them useful in many applications and which can generate excitement amongst students. Novel Materials and Smart Applications includes a range of activities that look at the nature of some of these materials and how they can be used to teach about key scientific ideas. Much energy consumption relies on the use of non-renewable fossil fuels, and there is increasing interest in the use of renewable fuels made from plant matter. Biofuels looks at the current developments in this area and the extent to which these fuels can make a useful contribution to energy supplies. Recycling is one of a range of strategies for reducing waste. Recycling and Sustainability provides an overview of approaches to waste management, with a particular focus on the different processes used in the recovery of materials from waste and on the end use of recycled materials.