Looking Ahead at Materials Science in 2023

End of year is almost always a time to reflect and look ahead. Let’s do that.  

In early April 2022, MatEdU News highlighted three big materials science trends to watch and provided a variety of resources for readers (link below). We decided that another review would be helpful as we head into 2023 amidst quite disruptive trends hitting the mainstream news environment.

  1. Using artificial intelligence (AI) to create new materials
  2. Materials advances in biological areas (3D printing personalized medicines). 
  3. Sustainability in Materials Science combining Industry 4.0 concepts with the Circular Economy (aka sustainability) is crucial to smart science.

These three trends all appear to be true for 2023, especially the artificial intelligence (AI) one. Many readers have likely seen the news related to ChatGPT for generating written content as well as DALL-E for image creation. Both of these tools are amazing, fast, and changing everything they touch.

Although neither of these two are directly impacting AI for materials science, the new attention on what AI can do at this level is certainly bringing awareness of what’s possible. There is no shortage of work being done in almost every niche, with research projects and commercial science efforts combining the power of AI within them. 

In addition to the three above, here are a two areas worth exploring.

Trend 1: Artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t replace people. Perhaps we should call that a myth. I don’t say this for any fear factor, but technology always disrupts and often replaces people, but opens doors for new possibilities. 

Almost certainly, AI is going to cause disruption in every industry it touches. But, there will be opportunities as well, for leveraging it in smart ways that only humans can do, for now. The current discussion in manufacturing is that it will allow robots and people to collaborate to accomplish tasks, often called Cobots or Co-Bots. 

The logic is that as AI and the connected machines become smarter, they will perform repetitive tasks so that humans will be able to solve higher-level thinking and tasks. Stay aware of how the tech is being used in your field and be smarter than it, in whatever way you can. 

Trend 2: As the above gains traction, there are going to be opportunities for technicians.

Materials science touches nearly every industry. If you need more info, the Online Instructional Resources for Material Science Technology Education (MatEdU) is an NSF funded project housed at Edmonds College. There are short-term certificates and training programs here and all around the USA.

Check out these industry reports and resources for ideas around how materials science is involved in the future of energy (think solar, wind, batteries, and more). Chemistry and advanced materials labs are going to need people who can think and run machines, code, and repair equipment, too.

According to StartUs Insights with their Top 10 Materials Industry Trends & Innovations in 2022 report (we hadn’t discovered this post/report summary when we wrote our first post, but this is an excellent and well-linked post, including companies working in each space). 

  •      Sustainable Materials
  •      Smart & Responsive Materials
  •      Nanotechnology
  •      Additive Manufacturing
  •      Lightweighting
  •      Material Informatics
  •      Advanced Composites
  •      Graphene & 2D Materials
  •      Surface Engineering
  •      Materials Management 4.0

The U.S. Department of Energy has a page dedicated to Next-generation materials, which highlights their research and development portfolio. When you scroll down on that page, take note that there are +Plus signs that you can click to expand for more information. They are easy to miss. That’s where all the next gen goodies are listed. You will find a variety of “novel materials with improved properties, such as materials for harsh environments, and advanced composite and lightweight materials.”

Thanks to the folks at Mewburn Ellis, a patent, trademark, and intellectual property firm based in London, they have an excellent materials informatics blog post that explains how materials science needs an information or data-based approach to development:

Mewburn also deserves a shoutout for the link to this TEDx talk from Dr. Taylor Sparks, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Utah:

Discover the materials of the future…in 30 seconds or less | Dr. Taylor Sparks | TEDxSaltLakeCity (Here is the direct link in case the embedded video does not show in your browser).

As MatEdU News has done in the past, we have pulled in resources from the World Economic  Forum (WEF). These are some of their 2022 posts, filtered by Advanced Materials. At the end of this list, which should give you areas to explore related to materials and the need for technicians, engineers, and other specialists, is a list of categories you can use to dig in even deeper. 

WEF Agenda article categories

As the need for more efficient, lightweight, and sustainable materials grows (just to name a few), we are watching in real-time the massive technology advances that open up new materials and methods. Naturally, that will lead to a growing demand for materials scientists and technicians. Please let us know if and how you use these resources to explore career and internship opportunities in the field of materials science in 2023 and beyond.


April 7 2022 MatEdU News post: Keeping Up with Materials Science Research and Trends Impacting Education and the Workforce.

For those interested in Nanotechnology, I will be including a number of trends from StartUs Insights and their Nano trends report for 2023, for our sister organization — the Micro Nano Technology Education Center (a national center for Micro Nano) and its Think Small news section. Stay tuned in early January. 

For a deep dive on AI within manufacturing and materials, this World Economic Forum report can be downloaded here: Unlocking Value from Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing

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