Materials science may be the most important technology of the next decade. Here’s why:

 

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Think of just about any major challenge we will face over the next decade and materials are at the center of it. To build a new clean energy future, we need more efficient solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. Manufacturers need new materials to create more advanced products. We also need to replace materials subject to supply disruptions, like rare earth elements.

Traditionally, developing new materials has been a slow, painstaking process. To find the properties they’re looking for, researchers would often have to test hundreds — or even thousands — of materials one by one. That made materials research prohibitively expensive for most industries.

Yet today, we’re in the midst of a materials revolution. Scientists are using powerful simulation techniques, as well as machine learning algorithms, to propel innovation forward at blazing speed and even point them toward possibilities they had never considered. Over the next decade, the rapid advancement in materials science will have a massive impact.

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Scientists create artificial wood that is water – and fire resistant

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The synthetic material is faster to make than natural wood.

A new lightweight substance is as strong as wood yet lacks its standard vulnerabilities to fire and water.

To create the synthetic wood, scientists took a solution of polymer resin and added a pinch of chitosan, a sugar polymer derived from the shells of shrimp and crabs. They freeze-dried the solution, yielding a structure filled with tiny pores and channels supported by the chitosan. Then they heated the resin to temperatures as high as 200 degrees Celsius to cure it, forging strong chemical bonds.

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Five technologies changing construction

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Technology is changing every industry, but what are the top technologies accelerating construction?

The construction industry, in general, suffers from a traditional hesitancy to embrace nascent technologies, caused partly because projects take years to plan and complete. Recently, however, progressive construction honchos have begun to harness and realise the potency of tech – whether it’s virtual reality, autonomous drones, artificial intelligence, concrete three-dimensional (3D) printing and much more.

Thanks to incredible tech advancements, great value is generated by optimising efficiency and productivity – at every stage, from planning to construction. Indeed, many within the industry predict that in a decade a building site will look very different. Here follows five of the most game-changing technologies in the construction world.

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A 3D printing breakthrough: 3D printed biological tissue

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Multimaterial 3-D printing – a complex lattice using different inks.

3D printing capabilities are rather limited despite the excitement that 3-D printing has generated. It can be used to make complex shapes, but most commonly only out of plastics. Even manufacturers using an advanced version of the technology known as additive manufacturing typically have expanded the material palette only to a few types of metal alloys. But what if 3-D printers could use a wide assortment of different materials, from living cells to semiconductors, mixing and matching the “inks” with precision?

 

 

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New 3D printed materials lighter than water and as strong as steel

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A Nanoscribe 3D printer can print models of the Empire State building in a space the width of a human hair using precision lasers. Watching the machine build through the “lens” of an electron microscope is otherworldly—but the printer’s potential runs beyond microscale model making. (Video)

 

 

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TapSense: New touchscreen technology recognizes different parts of the finger

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TapSense is an experimental touchscreen system, that is able to tell the difference between different parts of the user’s finger.

Devices with small touchscreens, such as smartphones, certainly have their attractions, but they also have one drawback – there isn’t much room on their little screens for touch-sensitive features. Users will sometimes have to go into sub-menus, or make do with jabbing their fingers at tiny controls. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, however, are working on an alternative. Their prototype TapSense system can differentiate between screen taps from different parts of the finger, and will perform different tasks accordingly. (Pics and video)

 

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Researchers Discover a Way to Create Aluminum Alloy as Strong as Steel

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Surface etched aluminum bar

Using a technique that creates a new nanoscale architecture, researchers have created an aluminum alloy just as strong as steel but with reasonable plasticity to stretch and not break under stress. Importantly, the technique of creating these nanostructures can be used on many different types of metals and the team plans to work on strengthening magnesium, a metal that is even lighter than aluminum that could be used to make strong, lightweight body armor for soldiers.

 

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Breakthrough in Developing Super-Material Graphene

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Graphene, only one atom thick, climbs terraces on the surface of a silicone carbide substrate.

A collaborative research project has brought the world a step closer to producing a new material on which future nanotechnology could be based. Researchers across Europe, including the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), have demonstrated how an incredible material, graphene, could hold the key to the future of high-speed electronics, such as micro-chips and touchscreen technology.

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Transparent Aluminum Is ‘New State Of Matter’

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Experimental set-up at the FLASH laser used to discover the new state of matter

Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. ‘Transparent aluminium’ previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion.

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