Structural materials, which have been important bearers of modern industrial society since the Industrial Revolution, are now at a new turning point. Structural materials research in the twenty-first century is changing due to three important demands from the society.
The first demand is the establishment of a sustainable society. In other words, escalating global problems regarding environment, energy and resources must be resolved. Structural materials are produced in huge quantities on an enormous economic scale, and therefore they are crucial in reducing environmental burden, decreasing energy consumption and ensuring efficient use of resources.
The second demand is the establishment of a safe and secure society. Examples of failure due to deterioration of social infrastructure indicate that some structural materials that have been rapidly implemented in the society since the second half of the nineteenth century have reached the end of their service life; consequently, the need for diagnosis and repair has emerged. Furthermore, taking safety measures in structures after a major disaster is an urgent task to prevent any serious further disasters.
The third demand is the establishment of a smart society. The rapid development of computer science and technology is expected to dramatically change the structure of industries with introduction of the Internet of things (IoT) systems. These social demands require new paradigms in properties and processes of structural materials and are causing substantial changes in the development of materials. In thermodynamics, phase diagram calculation and database building precede other fields. The use of computational science and data science has been introduced in the prediction of microstructures and properties; moreover, information integration in material design methodologies is conducted to accelerate development. However, an approach between excellent experiments and critical thinking is important in finding new guiding principles that go beyond conventional thinking, as has been the case in many laws of science.
Design vs Performance: How precisely can we predict materials’ performance through their design? What feedback does the understanding of phenomena through precise experiments provide for material design principles? What are the future implications if these two are combined? On October 4, the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) hosts NIMS Week Day 1, “Structural Materials for Sustainable, Safe, and Smart Society.” The event will include NIMS Award presentation ceremony and lectures to felicitate researchers with highest achievements in the research and development of structural materials. In addition, there will be plenary lectures by renowned Japanese and international researchers and a poster session. Furthermore, on this occasion the future directions of structural materials research will be discussed.