Magazine names carbon fiber composites to list of top advances in materials science

Carbon fiber makes the list at #6 in Materials

Materials Today magazine (published by Elsevier Ltd., Kidlington, Oxford, U.K.) has assembled a list of the top ten advances in materials science over the last 50 years. Here’s what they released:

We thought long and hard. We sought the advice of our editorial advisory panel and asked leaders in the field to add their own contributions. We hope the results are interesting and thought-provoking.

In making the final selection, we have tried to focus on the advances that have either changed our lives or are in the process of changing them. This is arguable, of course. Should an advance alter all our daily lives, or does fundamentally changing the research arena count? What about discoveries that can be clearly attributed to a certain date and investigator, or those developments that have come about incrementally through the efforts of many? Where does materials science stop and electronics, physics, or chemistry begin? And how do you assess the value of things like plastic bags? Undeniably they are a boon for carrying shopping but now also an item of scorn for energy and waste reasons.

Instead of ruling any of these out, we've tried to come up with a balanced selection. In doing so, we hope to start some debate about the discoveries that most mark out today's materials science. Let us know what we've missed. If you're incredulous that organic electronics or high-temperature superconductors aren't in the top ten, tell us why. Should Kevlar, Post-it notes, float glass, or F1 racing tires be in the list? What will define the next 50 years of materials science?

If you believe materials scientists are unsung heroes, that our work goes unnoticed and unheralded, here is your ammunition. With our time limit of 50 years, the list is of immediate relevance. It is about how materials science is affecting our world today, now.

1. International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors 2. Scanning probe microscopes 3. Giant magnetoresistive effect 4. Semiconductor lasers and LEDs 5. National Nanotechnology Initiative

6. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics The last 50 years have seen advanced composites take off – quite literally, in that many applications of these light but strong materials have been in aviation and aerospace. But modern composite materials have touched just about all industries, including transport, packaging, civil engineering, and sport. They can be found in Formula 1 cars, armor, and wind turbine rotor blades.

Leading the charge are carbon fiber reinforced plastics or, more properly, continuous carbon fiber organic-matrix composites. These materials bond extremely stiff, high-strength carbon fibers into a polymer matrix to give a combined material that is also exceptionally tough and light in weight.

The early 1960s saw the development of carbon fibers produced from rayon, polyacrylonitrile, and pitch-based precursors. The long, oriented aromatic molecular chains give the fibers exceptional strength and stiffness. This was a real gain over the amorphous glass fibers used previously in composite materials.

The development of carbon fibers, together with advances in design, modeling, and manufacturing, has given rise to composite materials with controlled, specific properties. "Rather than an engineer using a constant set of material characteristics, organic-matrix composites and the associated manufacturing methodology now enables the engineer to design the material for a specific application,"says Richard A. Vaia of the Air Force Research Laboratory. "The manufacturing science has opened up new frontiers, effectively moving component design down to materials design."The spectacular gain in performance has seen the increasing use of these materials despite the cost and increased difficulty in design, shaping, and recycling, such that the new Boeing 787 uses composites extensively in its wings and fuselage.

7. Materials for Li ion batteries 8. Carbon nanotubes 9. Soft lithography 10. Metamaterials

See original press release in its entirety on the Materials Today Web site: http://www.materialstoday.com/archive/2008/11-01/top10.html