This article is from the In-Depth Report Future of Manufacturing

9 Materials That Will Change the Future of Manufacturing [Slide Show]

Researchers are developing cutting-edge foams, coatings, metals and other substances to make our homes, vehicles and gadgets more energy efficient and environmentally friendly

Courtesy of Wyss Institute, Harvard University

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The future of manufacturing depends on a number of technological breakthroughs in robotics, sensors and high-performance computing, to name a few. But nothing will impact how things are made, and what they are capable of, more than the materials manufacturers use to make those things. New materials change both the manufacturing process and the end result.

Scientific American’s May special report “How to Make the Next Big Thing” presents several new materials under development to help inventors and engineers deliver next-generation technologies. These ingredients include superinsulating aerogels for spacesuits, flexible concrete cloth for construction projects and complex natural polymers that could replace toxic plastics.

Yet this lineup of advanced materials merely scratches the surface. Carmakers, for example, are developing porous polymers and new steel alloys that are stronger and lighter than steel, ostensibly making vehicles both safer and more fuel efficient. And environmentally savvy entrepreneurs are growing fungi-based packing materials to provide a biodegradable alternative to Styrofoam.

The following slide show presents these and several other substances that manufacturers could someday us to make many of the things we use.

View a slide show of these cutting-edge materials.

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