Chapter 1 briefly discusses the significance and development of materials science and engineering as an interdisciplinary endeavor that profoundly affects our quality of life in many ways. The potential economic and strategic impact of materials science and engineering is examined in Chapter 2 through a study of the materials needs of eight industries that collectively have sales of $1.4 trillion. Scientific and technological frontiers are explored in Chapters 3 and 4, both from the point of view of materials classes and from the point of view of the four elements of the field: synthesis and processing, structure and composition, properties, and performance. It is here that several aspects of the field become apparent: rapid progress at the forefronts, an emerging sense of unity, and a critical weakness in the area of synthesis and processing of materials. Issues related to synthesis, processing, performance, instrumentation, and analysis and modeling—areas considered essential to the progress of research in materials science and engineering—are discussed in greater detail in Appendixes A to E, respectively. In Chapter 5, which describes manpower and education in materials science and engineering, a picture of the richness of the field appears—the opportunities in the field draw physicists, chemists, biologists, and materials engineers together to solve materials problems. But the committee identified a critical need for new curricula and for increased production of educated manpower from university departments involved with materials science and engineering. Again, in assessing the resource needs discussed in Chapter 6, the committee found signs of trouble. Federal programs are shrinking rather than growing, and there is a critical need for facilities in the area of synthesis and processing. Finally, the role of materials in U.S. manufacturing success and ability to compete in global markets is treated in Chapter 7. All the major industrialized nations surveyed are revealed to have a strong commitment to industrial growth, stimulated by coordinated R&D in materials; the governments of all of these countries actively foster cooperative mechanisms to enhance competitiveness.
The central message of this report is a challenge both to the community of materials scientists and engineers and to policymakers: it is essential to recognize the increasingly important relationships between scientific and engineering opportunities in this field and to find new ways to coordinate academic, industrial, and governmental institutions to take better advantage of these opportunities. Federal programs have already made substantial progress toward structuring programs to deal coherently with the field of materials science and engineering as a whole. All the institutions working on materials should participate in this trend. A national weakness in synthesis and processing of materials must be remedied: there should be an emphasis on synthesis of new materials, and work on processing should stress science and technology relevant to manufacturing. New facilities and innovation in the development of new instruments for materials research are critical needs.