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Monday, 11 July 2011

Advanced Manufacturing and New Materials

Technology Review
July 11, 2011

New materials are critical components of emerging technologies that promise to be major growth areas for the economy, such as less expensive solar power, electric-car batteries that can go longer between charges, lightweight portable electronic devices, and implantable medical devices for personalized medicine. But the journey from new material to product typically takes one to two decades. That's in large part because new materials require advanced manufacturing technologies that can take many years to develop.

The White House hopes to cut that time in half by investing $100 million in a Materials Genome Initiative aimed at encouraging more efficient use of the computational modeling tools that researchers use to predict the properties of new materials. The initiative, which is part of the White House's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, will support open access to these models and databases across the materials science community in hopes of connecting academics with industry earlier in the development process.

As it stands now, scientists working with new materials don't take manufacturing issues into account early enough, says Cyrus Wadia, assistant director for clean energy and materials R&D at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. As a result, their research can lead them into dead ends. The way to change that, he believes, is to encourage the whole materials science community, from academics to manufacturers, to share data and computational tools—the "materials genome." Wadia says he wants researchers to ask themselves, "Who's done it before, what did they learn, and what can the market bear?"
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