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National Science Foundation
Chemistry & Materials - An overview of NSF research
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Photo, caption follows:

This image of cobalt atoms arranged on a copper surface represents one of the first structures from the new Nanoscale Physics Facility at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Informative as it is beautiful, this 8-nanometer-square structure is helping scientists to better understand the physics of ultratiny objects.
Credit: J. Stroscio, R. Celotta, A. Fein, E. Hudson, S. Blankenship, NIST

Cover Page Credit: © James Newhouse, Maui High Performance Computing Center; Maqsudul Alam, University of Hawaii

Chemistry and materials research are the sciences of stuff—perhaps the only word that does justice to the myriad molecules and materials that we find in the world around us.

Certainly there’s a multitude of scientists and engineers who are working with stuff. They include the metallurgists who develop lightweight, corrosion-resistant, high-strength alloys; the polymer chemists who create plastics strong enough to replace the metal in your car’s side panels and the solid state chemists who create new materials for lightweight batteries.

They include the condensed matter physicists and chemists who discover new superconductors and liquid crystals; the industrial chemists who mass-produce everything from fuels to pharmaceuticals and the civil engineers who devise improved concrete for longer-lasting highways.

They include the electrical engineers who make semiconductor devices smaller, faster and cheaper with each passing year; the ceramists who create high-temperature coatings for turbine blades and the biomedical engineers designing implants that integrate with natural tissue using the body’s own repair mechanisms.

And, of course, they include the laboratory scientists who develop novel substances like artificial bone for prosthetic implants, conducting polymers for "printable" electronic devices, self-assembling nano-fibers for nerve repair, nanoscale iron particles for toxic waste cleanup and porous metal-organic composites for hydrogen storage.

Still, despite this endless variety of particular interests and specialized subdisciplines, the sciences of stuff do have a fundamental unity. They are tied together by the common goal of understanding and controlling everything about molecules and materials, from the making and breaking of chemical bonds on timescales of less than a nanosecond, to the aging and corrosion of steel bridge supports on timescales of more than a decade.

And if researchers are nowhere close to achieving that goal--yet--they have made remarkable progress over the years, thanks in no small measure to support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Indeed, with its 28 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, its 14 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers, its National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and its funding for thousands of university-based laboratories and consortia, NSF is helping them take on some of the toughest challenges in the field today:

row bullet Understanding Emergence
row bullet Creating Molecules and Materials by Design
row bullet Creating New Kinds of Materials
row bullet Learning from Biology
row bullet Getting Greener