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[Image above] Credit: Dennis Skley; Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Now that we’ve relived the best of Ceramic Tech Today from the past year, it’s time to turn towards the future.

Last year I hedged my bets and made some predictions about what materials science topics would prevail in 2015—and, I gotta say, I wasn’t far off the mark.

So let’s keep the tradition alive—here are my predictions for the top five materials science topics that will take center stage in 2016.

  1. Additive manufacturing—still. Numero uno is not budging from last year’s list. That’s because 2015 brought new frontiers in 3-D printing, including big things for ceramics and glass. Additive manufacturing is sure to continue exploring new directions, materials, and possibilities in the new year. The only question is: Will 3-D printing drive us into the future?0827ctt MIT glass crop lo res

    Credit: MIT Mediated Matter

  2. Soaring alternative energy. On the heels of a historic climate change deal in Paris, it’s hard to imagine that energy research won’t continue an already impressive upward trajectory. Alternative energy use is on the rise, providing hope that altogether bidding farewell to fossil fuels is within reach. I expect 2016 will bring even more exciting research advances and commercial adoption of new tech in solar panels, wind turbines, better batteries, and new ways to collect and store energy.1118ctt Wind Turbine lo resCredit: Ana & Michal; Flickr CC BY 2.0
  3. Commercial fuel cells. Speaking of alternative energy solutions, “many signs indicate that the fuel cell industry is reaching its tipping point.” As a testament to the rising momentum behind fuel cells, recently we’ve seen brand new materials and broken world records. So maybe the better question is not whether 3-D printing will drive us into the future, but whether fuel cells will be behind the wheel.0818ctt mirai angle lo res

    Credit: Maurizio Pesce; Flickr CC BY 2.0

  4. New partnerships. As world challenges and the research to solve them get more complex, we’ve seen a trend of new beyond-the-walls partnerships between academia, industry, and national labs. New programs and new pairings are opening doors that may be able to make strides forward to address continuing needs in research, commercialization, and education.1230ctt handshake lo resCredit: Chris-Håvard Berge; Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
  5. Robots. NSF just announced a massive acronym-soup partnership with DOD, DARPA, NASA, NIH, and USDA that will put $37 million towards developing robots that work cooperatively with people. We’ve already shown that it’s becoming easier than ever to design your own robot—and society is okay with that, as long as it doesn’t mess with grandma.1230ctt robots lo res

    Credit: Peyri Herrera; Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0