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Materials for the 21st century: What will we dream up next?

  • Mark Miodownik (a1)

I look 50 years into the future of materials science to assess possible technological advances and their impacts on engineering, society, and culture. Themes such as cities, energy, food and drink, and healthcare are explored in terms of their materials requirements and our likelihood of fulfilling them. Possible directions for materials science and engineering are explored, such as metamaterials and technical textiles, along with their potential impacts on human expression in design, fashion, and architecture. As the number of available materials increases, I assess the likelihood that the methodology of materials development itself might evolve. Will experiments continue to dominate, or will approaches that combine big data and theory become more important forms of materials discovery? Or, more controversially, will our 10,000-year-old track record of materials innovation come to an end, as we run out of new materials to invent?

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