When we create products for the natural world, engineers and heat treaters tend to focus on making components that are stiff, strong and resistant to applied forces. Nature, on the other hand, chooses a different path, opting in general for objects that are highly flexible. To resolve the apparent conflict between the two requires an understanding of material science. Let’s learn more.
Materials science can be thought of as the science and technology of materials (Fig. 1). The central theory behind materials science involves relating the microstructure of a material to its macromolecular physical and chemical properties. By understanding and then changing the microstructure, materials scientists tailor the properties of a material to create custom or even brand-new materials with specific properties for specific uses.