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What is Materials Science?

Credit that satisfying clack of colliding billiard balls to materials science and engineering

Once, all billiard balls were made of ivory, a natural material harvested from animals. But in the 1860s, fearing a shortage, a supplier offered a reward for a practical alternative—and, it had to include that satisfying clack.

John Wesley Hyatt took up the challenge. He invented a method to combine nitrocellulose, camphor, and alcohol to create an artificial plastic called celluloid. Over the years, many practical uses have been found for celluloid including denture plates, photographic film and toys.

Simply put, materials science is about designing a better world.

At Duke, materials science is an important focus of our discovery work. You're invited to learn more about materials science and engineering at Duke. Each video below is packed with interesting information and is designed for a general audience.

Video Podcast Series

Episode 1: What is 'Materials Science?'

It's about designing a better world

Episode 2: Nurturing Nature

Looking to the natural world for inspiration for materials to help the human body heal faster and better

Note: Contains medical images some viewers may find disturbing

Episode 3: Accelerating Materials Discovery

Using advanced computing to write recipes for new materials that may solve problems in health care, electronics, transportation and energy

Episode 4: Planet-Saving Science, Part 1

Using the latest in materials science to design environmentally friendly products

Episode 5: Planet-Saving Science, Part 2

At Duke—New thinking about managing light and heat to make our built environment efficient, resilient and sustainable

Episode 6: Metamaterials—What are They and What do They do?

An "invisibility cloak," really? Yes! Duke researchers create stuff with properties not found in nature