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The Material World

The Material World

Chemistry 218: The Material World is intended for university students who may or may not have taken general chemistry and want to extend their understanding of materials. This course will not convert them into material scientists, but students shall aim at the development of an effective strategy leading to meet the challenge of the material world A solid scientific foundation and a broad knowledge about material will enable us to develop effective strategies to meet the challenge.

Scientific developments since the 16th century have brought us a much better understanding of the material world. Materials are now described by the molecular and atomic scales. Frontier research study the structure of the atoms and nuclei. You probably already have learned that atoms consists of electrons around very tiny but heavy atomic nuclei, which also contain all their positive charges. The nuclei consist of protons and neutrons. Theoretical and experimental approaches further suggest that protons and neutrons are composed of more foundamental particles. On the large scale, study of material has gone beyond the planet Earth. Exploration of the Moon, the Mars, the Solar System, and messages from other galacies are analyzed. Material science studies any thing between subatomic particles to galaxies.

Synthetic methods have enabled us to make new materials for quantities that are not possible nusing natural methods. We no longer entirely depend upon the soil and weather for food production and man made fibers rapidly replace natural fibers such as cotton, wool, silk, and linen. Today, we engineer materials that have desirable properties for our applications. Brick and wood are no longer the prime building material and a vehicle involve thousand of substances, some engineered. Tiny chips handle the flow of information, which includes data, voice, and image files.

As a one-term course, we cannot discuss all aspects of material. However, an effective strategy is not to cover all aspects, but to ask some important questions, and then search for their answers. Actually, once the right questions were asked, the solutions are close at hand.

If you want to find a material for a specific application, you may ask these questions. What material has the desirable properties? What properties have met the specification, and what properties are undesirable? Who can supply the material, and at what cost? How are these various substances made? What are their structures? After they have served their purposes, what should we do with them (waste management)?