A greater understanding of the properties of materials at the smallest scale is transforming manufacturing. This is changing the way things are designed and produced, from light bulbs to batteries, cars and aircraft.
In the Economist’s latest Technology Quarterly (TQ) – a special section focusing on recent trends and developments in science and technology – Paul Markillie, the paper’s innovation editor and world-leading expert on the disruptive impact of new technologies, explores how advances in materials science are leading to a new age of designer materials for bespoke factories.
Key findings include:
- The days of trial and error in selecting materials for manufacturing are ending. The emergence of a “materials genome” will soon enable engineers to choose materials tailor-made for particular applications.
- Engineering nanoparticles will allow breakthroughs such as rechargeable batteries that store much more power for laptops, smartphones and electric cars.
- New materials will require very different production techniques. Some cars are already being made from carbon-fibre composites without a weld or rivet in sight, and components for jet engines are produced by 3D printers.
Never before have manufacturers had such a choice of materials to work with. But to take full advantage of a range of novel properties they will have to learn to do things differently. That will mean reorganising factories, building new supply chains and ensuring that their workforce is up to speed.
Click here to check out the full report.
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