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As I think about materials science, I need to take a look back on human existence. I feel a big sense of pride for how far our ingenuity has gotten us. We are not perfect but you can’t deny that we are one resourceful and industrious bunch. As a material scientist I am fascinated by how material innovation tracks with human civilization development. The more advanced we make our materials the more advanced our societies become. In other words, our development as a species is enabled by the advancement of the materials in our lives. We truly live in a material world.
The Industrial Age
The best evidence for this notion is that we actually define the big leaps in civilization by the materials that enabled those leaps: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron age. Following these ancient ages was the Industrial Age (spanning the 1800s and the early 1900s) and was defined by material inventions such as steel, glass, concrete, aluminum – these materials had never existed before en mass and they are what allowed us to build our cities and transportation systems.
The Information Age
Next came the Information Age and it’s the age we are all live in today! This age is defined by major inventions with polymers and silicon. This age brought about huge advancements to essentially every aspect of our lives, with communication, computation, and medicine getting some major upgrades.
Why are we taking this trip down memory lane? Because what we really want to talk about is the age we are entering now. It doesn’t officially have a name yet, but the innovators are already claiming stake. The age of nanomaterials, the age of carbon, the age of quantum computing. Whatever the name ends up being, we know that the age will involve Bioengineered Materials like our B-SILK™ PROTEIN. Why are we so sure?
No doubt, material innovation / materials science has enabled major advancements, but it has also enabled conflict as well. Better materials, as a side effect, also enable things like war and pollution. Our planet and human health is definitely taking a beating from pollution. This is why we are sure Bioengineered Materials have a big role to play in our future. The key thing about Bioengineered Materials is that, generally speaking, they:
> Don’t persist in the environment like synthetic plastics.
> Are made from renewable resources like sugar.
> The process for making bioengineered ingredients (i.e. fermentation) has a low carbon footprint and ultimately contributes less to greenhouse gas emissions than traditional chemical processes.
> Is not contaminated with plasticizers, and monomers that can contaminate synthetic plastics, which have been associated with endocrine disruption and cancer.
Another thing about being a Scientist is that we like to think about the future. For us the future is bright because so much innovation awaits us. We are so glad you are joining us while we’re in the middle of making history.
Hope you enjoyed the read!
Materials–a brief history, Mike Ashby Pages 749-755 | Received 24 Jan 2008, Accepted 10 Mar 2008, Published online: 03 Mar 2009