Materials are all around us. From the chips in our mobile phones to the components of a car engine, from the casing of a paracetamol capsule to the nanostructures to store hydrogen in tomorrow’s cars, understanding what ‘stuff’ is made of is crucial to knowing how it will function.
Facilities like ISIS Neutron and Muon Source and the Central Laser Facility study materials at the atomic level, allowing scientists to understand the precise structure of artificial and natural materials, from aeroplane wings to proteins.
Real data online
The discipline of material science is broad to say the least. There are a number of citizen science-style projects where you can learn and contribute to material science research:
- Nanocrafter, a video game to build machines out of DNA and team with scientists to advance synthetic biology research
- Foldit, a competitive online game to determine how to fold a protein and help discover and predict the structure of a protein
- NanoDoc, a game to design nanoparticle strategies and help develop nanomedicines to treat cancer
- Public Laboratory Spectrometer, an open source community effort to develop low-cost spectrometers for a range of purposes.
Activities to try at home
There are a number of activities you can try at home that link to material science.
There are some nanotechnology activities that you can try at home:
The Open Materials website shows examples of how you can make use of some intriguing new materials to form the basis of your own home science project.
Argonne National Lab on Twitter: the lab looks at innovative material science with a focus on energy, environment and security challenges.
Berkeley Lab on Twitter: the lab considers science solutions to topics as small as bacteria and as unknown as dark matter.
Inventables on Twitter: for enthusiasts or people interested in new materials, new software and new ways to design things.
The Materials Research Society (MRS) on Twitter: the society works on advancing material and improving the quality of life.
Nature Materials on Twitter: the nature journal’s feed about materials and cutting-edge research in materials science at the interface with physics, chemistry, biology and medicine.
The following links will take you to the events hosted by different materials research groups around the country and beyond:
- Institute of Making, University College London
- Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge
- Department of Materials, Imperial College London
- Department of Materials, The University of Manchester
- Innovative Manufacturing and Future Materials, University of Warwick
- Department of Materials Science and Engineering, The University of Sheffield
- International materials events listed by Materials Today
Materials science online courses
Various universities offer online courses if you would like to learn more about our material world.
You can also find online materials science courses through Coursera.
Listen to Department of Materials podcasts from the University of Oxford.
The Materials Education Training and Learning Project (METaL) is a unique, workplace-based, project offering materials and metallurgy training.
We’ve also collected material science resources aimed at schools and educators.
Last updated: 27 July 2023