The study of materials and their properties – their strength, optical and electrical properties, for example – forms a major and heavily funded area of research which supports both innovation and technology. Using modern scientific techniques, material scientists can explore and manipulate materials even at the atomic level, and can create new materials with remarkable properties, for example the way the reflect and refract light, their hardness combined with flexibility, their ability to store digital data, to respond to their environment, and to be scaffolds for the growth of new biological tissue.
In this Very Short Introduction Christopher Hall begins with some familiar examples – gold, sand, and string, representing the big families of metals, ceramics, and polymers – and considers the properties, the making of materials, and the processes involved in their fabrication into objects, to show how materials science brings together engineering and technology with physics, chemistry, and biology.
1. Gold, sand and string
2. Close inspection
3. Materials properties: Soft, shiny and blue
4. Making stuff
5. Making Things
6. Sustainability: Such quantities of sand
Christopher Hall was appointed to the University of Edinburgh as its first Professor of Materials in 2000, and played a leading role in establishing the integrated School of Engineering in 2004. He was awarded the first Senior Brian Mercer award by the Royal Society in 2001 for his work on water transport, elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2010, and in 2013 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.