by G M CHOW, S J CHUA, and B V R CHOWDARI
ajor technological breakthroughs have historically depended on new materials and novel processing methods. Progress in advanced materials has been deemed one of the major engineering accomplishments of the last century.
These are indeed exciting times for research and development in materials science and engineering in Singapore and abroad. Dynamic, interdisciplinary, and multifaceted materials research areas offer new challenges and opportunities for innovation with far-reaching implications. Current trends in advanced materials emphasise the controlled synthesis and processing of materials of multiple length-scales (spanning molecular, nano, micro, and macroscopic ranges) with designed properties, and the integration of such materials into different functional platforms. Many already find application in industry.
This issue on advanced materials - by no means comprehensive in its coverage - aims to provide a look at cutting-edge research activity conducted worldwide. It places particular emphasis on materials related to nanotechnology and describes new methods of fabrication in the ultraviolet-lithography production of largescale nanomagnets, formation of nanosized patterns by nanoimprinting, and the use of nanopatterns for fingerprint identification. Materials for sustainable energy are represented by work on semiconductor quantum dots as efficient light sources, clean fuel cells based on membrane technology, and portable lithium batteries for mobile devices.
Scientists have exploited conventional ceramic materials such as titanium oxide for its unique optical and electronic properties in the form of nanohybrids or mesoporous structures and as selfcleaning coatings (no more spill problems at parties!). Polymer-based materials find use in biomedicine as biodegradable stents and nanostructures for delivering drugs to fight cancer and heal wounds. Doping with nanosized clays enhances the strength and performance of polymers. An article describes the surface and interface that relate to nanostructures' size-dependent properties.
On the medical front, exciting possibilities in the fields of tissue engineering, biomaterials that mimic nature, and nanobiotechnology for tissue regeneration promise treatment for incurable diseases and body repair.
Molecular and plastic electronics no longer belong in the realm of sci-fi; they are already present, thanks to scientists' ingenuity. Renowned experts paint a tantalising but plausible picture of the applications they wish to see emerge on the not-too-distant horizon.
For all these wonders to become reality, however, innovative teaching is crucial to guide the next-generation materials scientists and engineers in their search for discoveries and breakthroughs in a rapidly changing landscape. Education leading to the conscientious use of materials science and technology in their varied forms helps to establish respect and trust for the research community, whose efforts will lead to societal progress on all levels in ethical and harmonious ways.
This issue of INNOVATION gives a flavour of the significant happenings on the frontier of advanced materials, the state of the research, and the implications that these developments will have on our life.
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