What is Materials Science ?
Materials science (and engineering), MSE, is arguably the most important engineering discipline. Materials have always been important to the advance of civilization: entire eras are named after them. After evolving from the Stone Age through the Bronze and Iron Ages, now in the modern era we have vast numbers of tailored materials to make use of. We are really living in the Materials Age. The field of Materials Science deals with all classes of materials from a unified viewpoint and with an emphasis on the connections between the underlying structure and the processing, properties, and performance of the material. A materials scientist studies how materials react/behave when subjected to different conditions (such as mechanical loads, temperature and pressure) and understands that all materials can be approached from a common set of principles. Most fields in science and engineering are concerned in some way or other with materials, but only the field of materials science and engineering focuses directly on them. First, what are materials? That’s not difficult. Just look around. Materials are everywhere! The book we are using is made from a variety of materials. The glass in the windows, the aluminium frame, the ceramic dinnerware, the metal silverware and jewelry, automobiles, and everywhere we look we see products made from materials. Most products are made from many different kinds of materials to satisfy the needs of the product. Work and study in the field of materials science is anchored around an understanding of why materials behave the way they do, and encompasses how materials are made and how new ones can be developed. For example, the way materials are processed is often important. People in the Iron Age discovered this when they learned that soft iron could be heated and then quickly cooled to make a material hard enough to plow the earth; and the same strategy is used today to make high-strength aluminum alloys for jet aircraft. Today we demand more from our materials than mechanical strength, of course–electrical, optical, and magnetic properties, for example, are crucial for many applications. As a result, modern materials science focuses on ceramics, polymers, and semiconductors, as well as on materials, such as metals and glasses, that have a long history of use. In these and other areas of science and technology, materials scientists are indeed key participants.