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The Solid State

Materials are solids, and solids are divided into two general categories: crystalline, in which the atoms are stacked in more or less regular arrays, and amorphous, in which they are not

By Sir Nevill Mott

The Nature of Metals

The gas of electrons that binds metal atoms together makes metals behave as they do. Their mechanical properties in particular flow from the close-packed crystal structure favored by the metallic bond

By A. H. Cottrell

The Nature of Ceramics

They usually consist of metallic and nonmetallic atoms joined by bonds that are partly ionic and partly covalent. This gives them properties such as hardness, brittleness and resistance to heat

By John J. Gilman

The Nature of Glasses

The geometry of glass structure is the geometry of disorder on the way to order. The art of the glassmaker can be explained in terms of thermodynamics, chemical bonding and molecular architecture

By R. J. Charles

The Nature of Polymeric Materials

In synthesizing long-chain molecules man imitates natural polymers such as cellulose. Today nature is being outdone, and polymers are evolving that may be rigid enough to serve for heavy construction

By Herman F. Mark

The Nature of Composite Materials

Metals, ceramics, glasses and polymers can be combined in materials that have unique properties of their own. Nature uses this principle in wood and bone; man applies it in a new family of supermaterials

By Anthony Kelly

The Thermal Properties of Materials

How is heat conducted through a material? The key is the phonon, a particle-like packet of waves that can travel through a solid although the atoms in the crystal lattice are anchored in place

By John Ziman

The Electrical Properties of Materials

Materials differ In their resistivity to an electric current by as much as 23 orders of magnitude. The insights of quantum mechanics are helping to make this full range more accessible to technology

By Henry Ehrenreich

The Chemical Properties of Materials

In dealing with solid materials the chemist is concerned not only with such matters as corrosion and chemical syntheses but also with chemical events that occur inside solids, for example precipitation

By Howard Reiss

The Magnetic Properties of Materials

Why atoms are magnetic is well understood, but why some materials are magnetic is less so. Nonetheless, advances in magnetic materials have made possible devices from refrigerator latches to computer memories

By Frederic Keffer

The Optical Properties of Materials

The quantum-mechanical interpretation of the spectroscopic characteristics of the elements has made possible a number of technological advances such as the development of lasers

By Ali Javan

The Competition of Materials

Now that the properties of all materials are better understood, it is clear that quite different materials can be used for the same purpose. This calls for subtle choices involving both technology and economics

By W. O. Alexander


  • 50 and 100 Years Ago: September 1967

  • Science and the Citizen: September 1967

  • Letters

    Letters to the Editors, September 1967

  • Recommended


  • Mathematical Recreation

    Mathematical Games

  • Amateur Scientist

    The Amateur Scientist

  • Departments

    The Authors

  • Bibliography

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Introducing Scientific American Health & Medicine

Introducing Scientific American Health & Medicine