Materials Science: The State of the Art and Future Options
Research and Legislative Reference Bureau of the National Diet Library (ed.), "Materials Science: The State of the Art and Future Options," Research Materials, 2023-6, March 2024.
Materials (a collective term for materials, nanotechnology, and devices) are the foundation of modern life and industry. Materials science (a collective term for science-based research, testing, and technological development related to materials) is a driving force for improving well-being and has demonstrated its power as a source of Japan’s international competitiveness. However, in recent years, the international situation has changed rapidly and significantly. In addition to expectations for the development of high-performance materials that address environmental issues, the importance of materials science is also strongly recognized from the perspective of ensuring economic security and responsible resource procurement. On the other hand, Japan’s capabilities in materials science are relatively declining on the international stage. Recognizing this situation, this report analyzes the current state of materials science and explores the future options. Main topics of interest are the promotion policies of developed countries, the latest trends in DX (digital transformation) R&D, resource issues (especially ethical, legal, and social issues), and material performance deterioration (especially time-dependent deterioration). Investigation was conducted through literature surveys, interviews with experts, and field visits, taking into consideration issues such as the risk of resource depletion, geopolitical risks in resource procurement, and the elimination of conflict minerals. As a result, from the standpoint of promoting DX in materials science, the common weaknesses of current supply chain and value chain methods were identified. One is that they do not adequately consider the value of materials at the “use”’ stage and value changes over time. Second, they do not include resource circulation aimed at achieving a circular economy. Third, they do not include the potentiality that the problems on the “use” stage can suggest a valuable trigger for the development of new materials. Accordingly, this kind of analysis led to the proposal of a completely new method called a “circular chain” that overcomes all the above-mentioned defects. If it becomes commonplace for parties to exchange material data in a circular chain, it will lead to the creation of materials and innovations that will be the source of new value and competitiveness to solve social and market issues. Further, information strategies should also be fundamentally reviewed. In today’s globalized world, materials science professionals must gather information internationally to generate original, unique, and creative ideas that can help solve problems in countries, businesses, and organizations. In this sense, it is necessary for each individual to possess high intelligence and ethics and to strengthen their information activities in order to obtain highly truthful, structured information as a reference for decision-making. 〔The table of contents and the summary in English are contained in the following document.〕
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Research and Legislative Reference Bureau (RLRB), National Diet Library (NDL) (RLRB)