The interdisciplinary field of materials science, also commonly known as materials science and engineering, involves the discovery and design of new materials, with an emphasis on solids. The intellectual origins of materials science stem from the Enlightenment, when researchers began to use analytical thinking from chemistry, physics, and engineering to understand ancient, phenomenological observations in metallurgy and mineralogy.

Many of the most pressing scientific problems humans currently face are due to the limitations of the materials that are available and, as a result, breakthroughs in materials science are likely to have a significant impact.

Materials in research

Materials science has received much attention from researchers. In most universities, many departments ranging from physics to chemistry to chemical engineering—in addition to materials science departments—are involved in materials research. Research in materials science is vibrant and consists of many avenues.

Nanomaterials describe, in principle, materials of which a single unit is sized (in at least one dimension) between 1 and 1000 nanometers (10−9 meter) but is usually 1—100 nm. Nanomaterials research takes a materials science-based approach to nanotechnology, leveraging advances in materials metrology and synthesis which have been developed in support of microfabrication research. Materials with structure at the nanoscale often have unique optical, electronic, or mechanical properties.

A biomaterial is any matter, surface, or construct that interacts with biological systems. As a science, bio materials is about fifty years old. The study of biomaterials is called bio materials science. It has experienced steady and strong growth over its history, with many companies investing large amounts of money into the development of new products. Biomaterials science encompasses elements of medicine, biology, chemistry, tissue engineering and materials science.

Semiconductors, metals, and ceramics are used today to form highly complex systems, such as integrated electronic circuits, optoelectronic devices, and magnetic and optical mass storage media. These materials form the basis of our modern computing world, and hence research into these materials is of vital importance.