The study of materials is a multidisciplinary endeavor known as materials science. Materials engineering is a branch of engineering that focuses on creating and enhancing materials as well as discovering new applications for them in various sectors of the economy.
The Age of Enlightenment marked the beginning of materials science’s intellectual development as scientists started to employ analytical methods from chemistry, physics, and engineering to comprehend early phenomenological data in metallurgy and mineralogy. Engineering, chemistry, and physics are still used in materials science. As a result, academic institutions have traditionally regarded the discipline as a subfield of these linked fields. Major technical colleges all over the world established specialized schools for its study as materials science became more widely acknowledged as a unique and distinct discipline of science and engineering starting in the 1940s.
Understanding how a material’s processing history influences its structure, and subsequently, its features and functioning is highly valued by materials scientists. The relationships between processing, structure, and features are understood using the materials paradigm. This paradigm is applied to further knowledge in metallurgy, nanotechnology, and biomaterials, among other areas of research.
Forensic engineering and failure analysis, which also strongly depends on materials science, investigates materials, objects, buildings, or components that fail or do not function as intended and cause personal injury or property damage. These kinds of investigations are necessary, for instance, to comprehend the causes of certain aviation accidents and incidents.
History of Materials Science
A period’s preferred subject matter is frequently one of its defining characteristics. The terms “Stone Age,” “Bronze Age,” “Iron Age,” and “Steel Age” are historical, albeit arbitrary, instances. Materials science is one of the earliest branches of engineering and applied science, having its roots in the production of ceramics and its alleged offshoot, metallurgy. Modern materials science directly developed from metallurgy, which in turn developed from the use of fire. When the American scientist Josiah Willard Gibbs proved that the thermodynamic properties connected to atomic structure in different phases are related to the physical properties of a material, it marked a significant advancement in our understanding of materials.
The study and engineering of the metallic alloys, as well as silica and carbon materials, utilized in manufacturing space vehicles enabling space exploration, were important contributions to modern materials science. Rubber, plastics, semiconductors, and biomaterials are just a few of the innovative inventions that materials science has both fueled and been fueled by.
Several future materials science departments were originally metallurgy or ceramics engineering departments before the 1960s (and in some cases decades after), reflecting the 19th and early 20th-century concentration on metals and ceramics. The Advanced Research Projects Agency, which provided funding for several university-hosted laboratories in the early 1960s “to expand the national program of basic research and training in the materials sciences,” played a role in the development of materials science in the United States.
The emerging subject of material science, in contrast to mechanical engineering, concentrated on addressing materials at the macro level and on the idea that materials are constructed using knowledge of behavior at the microscopic level. The design of materials began to be based on specific desired features as a result of the increased understanding of the relationship between atomic and molecular processes as well as the general properties of materials.
Since then, the discipline of materials science has expanded to encompass all types of materials, including ceramics, polymers, semiconductors, magnetic materials, biomaterials, and nanomaterials, which are typically divided into three categories: ceramics, metals, and polymers. The active use of computer simulations to discover novel materials, forecast attributes, and comprehend phenomena has been the most significant change in materials research during the last few decades.