The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
The Physics of Materials: How Science Improves Our Lives
quality that in previous generations was available only to concertgoers.
Just a few generations ago, a trip across the United States was a great adventure. Today, jets whisk us safely across the continent or the oceans in only a few hours.
Making these extraordinary accomplishments possible are a wide variety of polymeric, ceramic, and metallic materials, as well as the transistor, the magnetic disk, the laser, the light-emitting diode, and a host of other solid-state devices. The development of these materials and devices depended on our ability to predict and control the physical properties of matter. That ability is the realm of condensed-matter and materials physics (CMMP), the subject of this report.
Fifty years ago, the major intellectual challenge facing researchers in CMMP was to understand the physical properties of nearly perfect single crystals of elements, simple compounds, and alloys. Today our challenge is to extend that understanding to much more complex forms of matter—high-temperature superconductors, multicomponent magnetic materials, disordered crystals, polymers, glasses—and to more complex phenomena like the fracture of solids and the continuous hardening of glass as it cools. Ever in view in today's CMMP is another scientific revolution, the dramatic change under way in the biological sciences. Great opportunities lie ahead as condensed-matter and materials physicists increasingly work together with biological scientists.
FIGURE 1.3 A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) image that shows the wave nature of electrons confined within a “quantum corral,” 14 nanometers in diameter, made up of 48 individually positioned iron atoms ona copper surface. Devices formed by precise positioning of atoms or moleculesmay one day play an important role in ultrahigh-performance computer chips.(Courtesy of IBM Research.)
Part 2 of this report illustrates the vital impact of CMMP on our daily lives. It consists of a brief story—a few simple events that happen every day—accompanied by descriptions that highlight a sampling of the scientific and technological advances in CMMP that make those everyday events possible.
Part 3 explores the nature of the CMMP endeavor itself. CMMP is a diverse, evolving, interdisciplinary field linked strongly to other science and engineering disciplines, which benefit from and contribute to its successes. Indeed, CMMP is distinguished by its extraordinary interdependence with other science and engineering fields. Its practitioners include those who make and refine new materials, those who seek to understand such materials at a fundamental level through experiments and theoretical analysis, and those who apply