25 Apr 5 Materials Science Industry Trends to Look Out for in 2021
From polymers to superalloys to semiconductors, the materials science industry is responsible for some of the most significant technological developments in modern history. In this article, we take a look at the top 5 materials science trends that we expect to influence the world in 2021.
Green Energy Production
It is now of greater importance than ever before that steps are taken to mitigate climate change. This necessarily involves finding environmentally sustainable ways to produce, store and distribute energy. With deployment of renewable energy technologies accelerating throughout Canada and the rest of the world, the materials science industry will play many vital roles in the future of energy.
The materials science industry is essential to the development of new power sources such as nuclear fusion systems, where challenging reactor environments require materials capable of resisting high heat and radiation fluxes and thermomechanical stress. Already-functional technologies such as solar photovoltaics may also reap the benefits of new advances in the materials science industry: the commercialization of perovskite films could usher in a new breed of super-efficient solar cells.
In the 1990s, the materials science industry revolutionized energy storage with the first commercial lithium-ion batteries. In 2021, a shift away from large-scale energy distribution towards distributed renewables will place unprecedented demand on our ability to store energy. The materials science industry will be instrumental in finding practical ways to achieve this: from developing more durable polymer membranes for fuel cells to new battery technologies for large-scale stationary storage.
Nanotechnology is bringing about an invisible revolution within the materials science industry. Incorporating nanostructures into materials (for example in nanocomposites) has already revolutionized industries such as aerospace and defense by enabling the creation of lightweight high-performance materials with extreme strength and durability. Nanomaterials have the potential for application across a huge range of industries, from energy storage to healthcare. The interplay between nanotechnology and the materials science industry is only likely to increase as nanofibers, nanotubes, allotropes, quantum dots and other nanostructure technologies continue to mature and proliferate.
As the world becomes increasingly aware of plastic pollution and other issues related to material waste, governments are placing regulatory pressure on industries to reduce the amount of waste they can produce. The Canadian government recently announced over two billion dollars of funding to plastic pollution research, with the aim of Canada reducing its plastic waste levels to zero by 2030.
In the face of regulatory pressure and a growing need to reduce waste, the materials science industry is aiming to solve the problems of waste by developing sustainable solutions. From the development of biodegradable and recycling compounds, to the creation of low-impact steel and concrete production processes, the materials science industry will be instrumental in reducing the amount of waste produced in industry.
Recent advancements in the materials science industry have enabled the creation of “smart” materials that respond to external stimuli. Such materials can exhibit diverse properties including shape memory, piezoelectric properties, self-healing, and change of color in response to temperature, electric potential or light.
Future applications of these materials may include very small memory-alloy-based actuators, or high-sensitivity nanosensors with applications in medical diagnostics and environmental monitoring. If you would like to keep up to date with the latest innovations in this area, simply contact a member of the team to join our mailing list.