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Embracing the materials world

By James Dacey

Materials research is enjoying a new golden age. The hit parade of supermaterials that has been discovered in the relatively recent past is extensive. It includes the likes of high-temperature superconductors, quantum dots, bucky-balls, nanotubes, aerogels, silver nanowires and graphene. Meanwhile, new approaches to the commercialization of materials – such as the recent Materials Genome Initiative in the US – are improving the processes by which new materials are transferred from the science lab to practical applications in the real world.

In conjuction with these new discoveries, materials scientists have also made dramatic improvements to the tools they have available for studying and manufacturing materials. Here, the list of advances is seemingly endless. Researchers can now simulate, image and analyse materials with far more accuracy than ever before. Developments in production methods – such as the advent of 3D printing – are also enabling researchers to scale up their new materials with greater ease.

To reflect these rapid developments in materials science, IOP Publishing – which also publishes Physics World – has recently launched three new journals.

The first is Materials Research Express (MRX), which publishes papers on new experimental and theoretical research on the design, fabrication, properties and applications of all classes of materials. Its editor-in-chief is Meyya Meyyappan, who is director of the Center for Nanotechnology at NASA Ames Research Center. Introducing MRX in this video, he says that the new journal will “provide an attractive combination of very fast peer-review, scientific rigour and complete article-length flexibility”.


Another journal recently launched by IOP Publishing is 2D Materials (2DM). The publication covers all aspects of graphene and other related 2D materials. Again, the journal is placing a strong emphasis on being interdisciplinary – by covering physics, chemistry, engineering and biology – and considering everything from fundamental science to novel applications. In the video below, 2DM is introduced by two members of its editorial board, Tony Heinz of Columbia University and Luigi Colombo of Texas Instruments Inc.


The final member of this trio of materials journals is Translational Materials Research (TMR). This new type of publication will look at the process involved in taking materials research from the science lab to the commercial marketplace. “Translational Materials Research will make connections across the innovation chain to bridge the so-called valley of death between fundamental research and commercial success,” says the TMR editor-in-chief, George Grüner. There’s no video profile yet for this journal, but for the latest updates check out the TMR+ blog.

Oh, and if you are still wondering precisely what is meant by the “valley of death”, have no fear. Later in the year we will be publishing a special issue of Physics World devoted to this topic.

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