The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
The trusted source of intel for the fashion and textile industries ·
Category
Materials
Author
Brooke Roberts-Islam
Date
12.11.2022
Industry Deep Dive
Edu-series: Materials science #1. What is materials science?

Welcome to the first instalment of this edu-series on materials science. The series, split into six bite size chunks, will arm you with the basics of materials science so that you can better understand the fast evolving landscape of sustainable and next-generation materials. No prior knowledge is needed.

This series will take you through what materials are and the relevant scientific basics. It will explain how existing materials are developed and how completely new ones are made. Everything we touch is material, so understanding what they are and how they work is essential to critiquing their environmental and social impacts. By the final instalment you will understand the materials of today, and those of the next generation.

“Materials are the fundamental building blocks of culture” Mark Miodownik, Materials scientist and engineer
Category
Materials
Author
Brooke Roberts-Islam
Date
12.11.2022
Industry Deep Dive
Edu-series: Materials science #1. What is materials science?

Welcome to the first instalment of this edu-series on materials science. The series, split into six bite size chunks, will arm you with the basics of materials science so that you can better understand the fast evolving landscape of sustainable and next-generation materials. No prior knowledge is needed.

This series will take you through what materials are and the relevant scientific basics. It will explain how existing materials are developed and how completely new ones are made. Everything we touch is material, so understanding what they are and how they work is essential to critiquing their environmental and social impacts. By the final instalment you will understand the materials of today, and those of the next material generation.

“Materials are the fundamental building blocks of culture” Mark Miodownik

Overview

Some things are best left to the experts (quantum mechanics, anyone?) but materials science is not one of them. It is not a science about theories, but about real-world solutions; and as such, it touches all of us and we touch it, through the objects we wear, drive, walk and sleep on – even eat with.  

Materials science encompasses chemistry, physics, biology and engineering and is used to design and build our world – from computer chips to medical sutures. 

Materials are our world1, and understanding them gives us power, passion and the potential to regenerate Earth. But our future has limitations: the physical resources available, and the amount of additional stress the planet can endure because of depletion and pollution.  This is where materials science meets ecology: the examination of the best materials we can make within the planetary boundaries that can return safely to nature (circularity not withstanding).  And here, we arrive at a fantastical material utopia – where materials are regenerative – net positive, even.  As Mike Berners-Lee said in his book There is No Planet B, we must first imagine a better future to then create it.

So, what is ‘material’? 

Material is made of ‘matter’, and ‘matter’ is anything that contains atoms and takes up space (I’ll explain this more fully in the next instalment of this series). All materials are ‘matter’ that is made of up many atoms combined to make various different molecules which determine how they look, feel and behave.  

What role do chemistry, physics, biology and engineering play?

Well, they determine how the matter in material behaves, and therefore the benefits and possibilities a material offers.

Chemistry explains how materials (made of matter containing molecules, made from atoms) bond together. This is a key element of understanding the composition and behaviour of materials. 

Physics helps us understand the functional properties of materials, including their electronic, thermal and magnetic characteristics (because physics teaches us how energy transfers between things in our world).

Biology informs the integration of materials into biological systems (we’ll touch on synthetic biology, for example, later in this series). 

And lastly, engineering is the discipline that handles the overlap of chemistry, physics and sometimes biology. Engineering proposes applications of the ‘core’ sciences in the real world. While chemistry and physics are sometimes theoretical, engineering lives in the world as bridges, machinery, genetically modified organisms and much more. For this reason, the discipline of materials science is typically studied within the field of engineering. 

“Materials transformation is what makes the world go around” Mark Miodownik

Foundations of materials science

Materials science is the investigation of the structure, properties, processing, and performance of materials. Its research often leads to new applications of known materials, for example, wood pulp for paper being developed and synthesised into viscose textile fibres instead. Materials science is also the creation of new materials with desired properties (for example synthetic fibres, like nylon, which have superior strength relative to their weight).

The major factors that determine the structure and properties of a material are the chemical elements it contains and the way the material is processed into its final form. These factors, combined with knowledge of how heat and other types of energy move about our world (the laws of thermodynamics) determine a material’s microstructure, and its characteristics.

Regarding the textile industry, the current motivation is to provide viable lower-impact material alternatives that can displace toxic and finite ones, in line with the IPCC2 climate change directive to reduce carbon emissions and biodiversity impacts.

With many fashion brands committing to environmental impact targets (including emissions reductions to net zero by 2050) materials science offers the expert research and development to invent new material solutions that could help meet such targets.  The majority of the environmental impact of fashion occurs during the textile phases of the supply chain3, with materials science, chemical formulations (for dyeing textiles) and renewable energy all being central to reducing these impacts.

The next instalment in this series dives into chemistry, told from a practical point of view. The content will be condensed, accessible and engaging chemistry basics to provide you with a better understanding of materials and how they ‘work’.

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