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Published on December 30th, 2014 | By: April Gocha, PhD

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Five materials science wonders to watch in 2015

Published on December 30th, 2014 | By: April Gocha, PhD

 Credit: Sara; Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

It’s almost the New Year—and while John Oliver may regard New Year’s Eve as the most awful holiday of the year, I enjoy the reflection, hope, and anew that it brings.

 

Jessica and Eileen have already provided their reflections on the year that’s almost past and the new one that’s about to unfurl, and there’s just enough time for me to sneak in my perspective before the calendar flips to 2015.

 

Like Jessica, I started writing about materials science and more here at ACerS back in February of this year, which means I’ve been meandering through the materials science world for almost 11 months now. I’m happy to report that even though I’ve meandered wide and far, I’m not lost—yet.

 

Unlike Jessica, science is not new to me—but the field of materials science is completely uncharted territory. I studied biomedical science prior to this gig, so when I stepped foot in ACerS headquarters back in February, I knew nothing. I could barely define ceramics, let alone pick them out of a lineup.

 

After 11 months of semiconductors, solar cells, transparent armor, brick, ion-strengthened glass, and more, I have to say that I’m fascinated by what I have learned and humbled by the much more extensive pile of all that I still have yet to learn.

 

Since I don’t have the time nor you the attention span to imbibe all the exciting things I’ve learned this year, instead I’m going to turn my head toward the future. Here are some of the stories that I’m looking forward to following in 2015—what big new advancements will come, and where will they lead us?

 

  1. 3-D printing, a.k.a. additive manufacturing. Yes, we have covered 3-D printing extensively so far—including 3-D printed floating housing projects, LED contact lenses, DIY microscopes, automobiles, and food waste—but there’s so much further that this field can go. What turns and new advances will 3-D printing enable in 2015? What new materials will be added to printing’s ever-growing repertoire? Will we ever be able to reliably print human tissues into organs or spare parts? I’m fascinated and full of questions on this topic, so expect to see more to come in the coming year.
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Princeton University mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Michael McAlpine holds a contact lens 3D printed with LED lights. Credit: Frank Wojciechowski; Princeton

  1. Driverless cars. Volvo unveiled in 2014 that the automobile company had successfully tested magnetic roadways to guide driverless cars. Google also just revealed its first build of a driverless car, and we have started to see U.S. states guiding lawmakers to prepare for the eventual advent of this technology to the roads. Will efforts for or against driverless cars prevail in the upcoming year? The technology is sure to continue to advance, but how societies and roads deal with this new tech will be interesting to watch unfold.
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Will driverless cars take to the road in 2015? Credit: Noebu; Wikimedia CC

  1. Better batteries. We’ve written a lot about batteries here at CTT, and it’s no wonder—Jessica just reported that batteries are one of the five hottest fields in research right now. Batteries keep getting safer, smaller, more organic, thinner, more reliable, or longer-lasting, and I’m eager to see how much they’ll change in the new year.
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Batteries, batteries, and more batteries. Credit: amintore fanfani; Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

  1. Stuff that makes the world better. Ceramics and glass have a strong place in materials advancements to help the world live more in harmony with the planet—think environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and sustainable. This past year, we’ve covered stories about photocatalysis for solar energy and for clean water, concrete that creates clean drinking water, thermoelectric generators that put wasted energy to use, new ways to reuse old tires, glass that helps protect birds, and so much more. While not all of these advances will move beyond the lab, some will—and the world will be better for it. With the damage humankind has caused to this planet now officially designated as irreversible, we continue to need ingenious solutions to protect this pale blue dot.
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Glass covered with a pattern of ceramic frit, which is aimed to increase visibility to birds and prevent them from flying directly into the glass. Credit: DuPont

  1. Glass. Some of our most popular stories of 2014 were those about the glass that goes into our beloved devices. Glass giant Corning announced some big advances, including the debut of Gorilla Glass 4, surface strategies that ban glare, reflection, and grime, and the possibility of in-glass sensors in the next generation of glass-clad devices. How will glass get better in the new year? We don’t know yet, but we’ll be sure to keep our fingers on the pulse—and we’ll be sure to keep you posted as the developments develop.
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Invisible waveguides being written via laser into a smartphone’s display glass. The waveguide is a horizontal line from the left side of the screen, but it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Credit: Optics Express

 

 

 What stories or topics are you watching for in 2015? Talk to us in the comments below!

 

 


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