Sciences : histoire orale
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What Do We Mean by "Research on Materials" ?

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Many disciplines today investigate materials : mechanics, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering sciences, electronics… Their research and development thus lays at the crossroad of many disciplines and institutions public or private, academic or industrial, civil or military institutions. In certain countries like the United States, they take place in ad hoc “Materials Science and Engineering” departments. But they can take other forms in other contexts. The international perspective we adopted for the SHO website led us to adopt the more generic expression of “research on materials”.
In research on materials, the structures and properties of matter are studied or synthesized in order to perform functions. The functionality of structures, from molecular scales to the macroscopic world, constitutes a major feature of materials (even if the function simply provides a mechanical structure). For several decades, the functionalization has orientated research towards the design of materials to implement potential applications.
We can thus consider that the expression “research on materials” best fits the diversity of practices and situations that are encountered within the SHO corpus. Biomaterials for example, which are functional and often multi-functional, today provide a source of inspiration for the elaboration of materials or are themselves considered to be raw materials. In addition, the engineering of these “custom-made materials” demands a particular interest on the processes of synthesizing and making.


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