Materials Science: The Foundation of the Future


After close to 7 years of meeting in the depths of over 100 materials laboratories around the globe, one thing has become clear: the research, development, publications, and innovations that derive from materials science often form a core piece of the products, systems, and infrastructures of tomorrow. 

It’s a look into the future

How can this be? From a thermal properties characterization perspective, often the research and validation of new materials (never before used in the mass market) is a leading indicator of what is to come. Materials such as super-insulative ceramics with aerogel additives (for protecting future spaceships), or thermally conductive polymer composites that still insulate against electricity (for the next generation of smartphones) stretch the constraints of what’s possible today for hard-goods design and manufacture.

This window into tomorrow is why I cherish every time I visit an R&D lab, tour a production facility, or help implement a characterization solution for a unique application.

A few years later, we saw new technology come to market

Just now there is an explosion of “technical textiles”, with advanced cooling and warming properties, being released to the consumer market by the big brands that make our sportswear, yoga pants, and base layers. It was over four years ago that the sensor technology from C-Therm was recognized as a valuable tool in characterizing the touch properties of textiles. Through further refinement of the technique in consultation with industry, a new global standard was released (ASTM D7984), specifically identifying cool-touch and warm-feel quantification. It was this collaboration that was the leading indicator of this new trend in the consumer market.

And then sometimes, we spend time in the future

My time spent in-market in China takes me into the future itself: figuratively with the wide-scale implementation of technology throughout Shanghai, and literally with a 12-hour time zone jump. 

The results of materials science being married with high-tech manufacturing are evident throughout the infrastructure that supports over 26 million people. A glass elevator shoots you up the side of a skyscraper in seconds, with half of it exposed to the outside elements while the internal environment stays stable. In this environment of intense heat and humidity, I can imagine the importance of the steel, rubber, and greases employed in a robotic lift system for parking garages that stack cars. In the thousands of cameras that allow for automated control of highways and city streets, electronic cooling and heat dissipation is critical.

Most impressive of all, the view across The Bund River is taken to futuristic, “Blade Runner” style heights with arrays of millions of LED lights (thermally stabilized I bet) all coordinated to bring the skyline to life night after night.

And so it is now that my excitement and passion grow faster than ever for this foundation of the future, as Commercial Director at C-Therm, where we continue to bring new sensor technology to more industries and laboratories around the globe. It’s the excitement to watch materials science continue to launch our future and to have a part in it all, no matter how small.