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Advances in Material Research in the Past and Next Decade


In the past decade, major breakthroughs have been made in all aspects of material research, covering almost all material types.
  • Author Name: Tylor Keller
Editor: Tylor Keller Last Updated: 06-Jul-2021

In the past decade, major breakthroughs have been made in all aspects of material research, covering almost all material types. For instance, graphene, the value of which was not recognized initially, has been found to be potentially valuable in many electronic applications such as solar cells, transistors, camera sensors, digital screens, and semiconductors. Besides, research on other materials such as metals, bulk metallic glasses, high-performance alloys, ceramics and glass has been also intensified.

Materials that developed quickly in the past 10 years

Because composite materials and hybrid materials can withstand harsh environments, such as bulk materials, composite materials, and coating materials, they have been widely used in appropriate applications. Advances in coating technology have improved reliability of composite materials, contributing to their use in thermal protection and environmental protection systems. In more and more scenarios, layered material systems are replacing advanced monolithic materials since the unique properties and functions of each layer significantly improve performance and life. Huge progress has been made in polymers, various biological materials, and soft substances (such as colloids and liquid crystals).

Superconducting materials have always been the center of research, but quantum materials are developing rapidly these days, including quantum spin liquids, strongly correlated films and heterostructures, new magnets, graphene and other ultra-thin materials, and topological materials, etc.

Prediction of material research in the next 10 years

Based on the above-mentioned latest developments in materials science, it is expected that more and more materials will start or continue to find their use in more applications.

Metal and alloy materials

In the future, researchers will continue to use increasingly coupled experiments and computational modeling to perform real-time characterization with changes in material conditions and behaviors. New opportunities will also come from innovations in design, composition, processing and manufacturing methods, which make use of advanced capabilities in material manufacturing. High-entropy alloys (with five or more elements in comparable concentrations) will have considerable development prospects in the next ten years. This material offers the possibility to overcome the difficulties and obstacles faced by traditional alloys, such as the trade-off between strength and conductivity. In addition, progress is also expected to be made in metals in non-traditional fields such as nano-metal alloys. The morphology and complex structure of nanostructured metal alloys can be controlled at the nanometer scale (such as nanotwinned metals).

Research on metals, alloys, and ceramics continues to provide a basic understanding of atomic-scale processes that control the synthetic microstructure-property relationships of many types of materials. With this understanding and state-of-the-art synthesis, characterization and calculation tools, new alloys and micro/nano structures with special properties are being realized. There can be amazing new developments in the field of traditional materials research, for example, in multi-component, high-entropy alloys and inorganic glasses. Quantum materials science and engineering, including superconductors, semiconductors, magnets, and two-dimensional and topological materials, represents a vibrant field of basic research. New understandings and advances in materials science will help realize transformative future applications in computing, data storage, communications, sensing, and other emerging technologies. This includes new computing directions beyond Moore's Law, such as quantum computing and neuromorphic computing, which are essential for low-energy alternatives to traditional processors.

Electronic materials

Most research on semiconductors and other electronic materials will continue to be driven by the information and computing technology industry towards increasingly complex monolithic integrated devices, higher-performance microprocessors, and chips that take full advantage of three-dimensional (3D) layouts. Research on materials that can achieve more efficient power management will also continue to be a major focus. Two-dimensional materials, including graphene, provide opportunities to explore the properties of surface electronic states. By layering such materials, the weak interactions between layers and the existence of design flaws provide a lot of opportunities for discovery, as well as potential opportunities for electronic and optical applications. The properties of topological materials are determined by the topological properties of their excitation spectra. In the field of ceramics, more efforts will be made to produce denser and ultra-high temperature ceramics. The improved characterization and processing capabilities have opened up new opportunities for glass research, which may lead to their use as solid electrolytes for energy storage and nonlinear optical devices.

Other promising materials

In the field of hybrid materials, perovskites will continue to arouse great interest, mainly because of their potential advantages for single-junction solar cells. Hybrid nanocomposite materials have broad application prospects in optoelectronics and photovoltaic conversion technology due to their good optical properties and high carrier mobility. By designing a composite battery of lightweight materials, it provides opportunities for a series of technologies in the fields of aerospace, transportation and energy production. Metamaterials are another important category. Their structures provide specific functional responses. They provide huge opportunities in many different technologies, such as energy-saving light sources, sensor applications, thermal engineering, and microwave technology.

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