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Advanced Materials – What’s the big deal?
Andrew Maynard   Aug 21, 2014   Risk Science Center  

Materials and how we use them are inextricably linked to the development of human society.  Yet amazing as historic achievements using stone, wood, metals and other substances seem, these are unbelievably crude compared to the full potential of what could be achieved with designer materials.


Why are materials important? How do they limit what we can achieve? And what can we do to change this?  (Check out the videos below).

Advanced Materials

Over the past 20 years or so, the field of nanotechnology has stimulated massive strides in designing and engineering new materials from the scale of atoms up.  It’s now possible to stitch together atoms in novel ways to create materials that far outperform their historic counterparts.  But we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.  Scientists and engineers are now learning how to design highly sophisticated materials that behave in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago - lightweight metalsflexible glasscloaking materials,tissue repair scaffolds and more; the full list of emerging materials is impressively long, and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a science fiction anthology not so long ago.

As these new, advanced materials begin to find their way into the products you use and rely on, what do you need to know about what they are, and how they can be developed and used responsibly?

The Risk Bites channel over on YouTube has a series short primers on advanced materials – check them out below (they’re only a few minutes long). Or if you are feeling more adventurous, check out the slightly longer Brief Introduction to Advanced Materials, which pulls all the information into one 22 minute video.

A Brief History of Materials


Designer Materials in the 20th Century


Advanced Designer Materials


Are Advanced Materials Safe?


What Makes Advanced Materials Harmful?


Do Novel Materials Present Novel Risks?


Creating Materials that are Safe By Design

For more videos on the science of risk, check out

Andrew Maynard is Director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

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