Some materials catch headlines, are held in awe, but not all. Some get little respect, despite having changed the world. They have become commonplace, anonymous, ignored and (particularly if they are cheap) cast aside when no longer wanted. If they had feelings, they would be hurt. This brief series of blogs is to draw attention to their plight.
Rumpelstiltskin could spin straw into gold. Materials Scientists can’t do that yet. But they can do other things with straw. The value-added may be lower but the business-case has a firmer scientific base. But first: what is straw?
Don’t forget, educators can visit Granta’s Teaching Resources Website to browse, search for, and download relevant resources for those teaching materials across science, design, and engineering courses.
Consumer product development is distinguished from other manufacturing sectors by high turnaround, with many products having a typical lifespan of no more than two to five years. Whether household appliances, electronic devices, or even cars, the market has a constant appetite for new products and its attention is fickle. Tastes evolve—a product that was the epitome of good design five years ago may now look dated. Even the most cutting-edge devices may only secure demand for so long before market share is lost to competitors or newer technology. Manufacturers have a limited horizon in which to capitalize on the success of their new products and generate profit, and they need to get it right. But how?
Additive manufacturing, often referred to as ‘3-D printing’, is creating great excitement in advanced manufacturing. Use of the technology means that fully functional objects can be built from plastics and metal, layer-by-layer, in extraordinary detail, without the need for expensive moulding and with minimal post-processing required. Research in this area has attracted funding from governmental agencies seeking to establish a competitive advantage and offset the loss of much traditional heavy manufacturing to lower-wage regions. Such projects target increased automation, greater material and energy efficiencies, and a reduction in waste. To meet these targets, many practical challenges must be overcome—effective use of materials information will be an important success factor.
Completely new materials in the field of implantable devices are a rare occurrence. This is because of the heavy regulatory burden placed on implantable medical devices to ensure that they are safe and effective for use in the specified application. There has to be a very good reason to invest in the cost of qualifying a new material over the ones that have a long standing history in the field. However, one group of materials that seem likely to cross that boundary and have been gaining increasing attention in recent years are bioabsorbable magnesium alloys. But what are these alloys and why are they gaining such attention? Continue reading