Materials play a key role in shaping our way of life. Undoubtedly, advances in materials (particularly structural materials) have contributed to the evolution of society, allowing bridges, aircraft, and even prosthetics into our lives. The present period - spanning the past few years alone - is an important window into a rapidly evolving future. What is clear is that we require materials and systems that we have not previously used, in order to meet the ambitious technical needs of rapidly evolving markets and consumers, in addition to the urgent need for environmental sustainability.
The recent rise of additive manufacturing technologies has also provided a new means by which components can be produced, whilst also illuminating many aspects regarding the role of “design” of materials. Most structural materials presently used in engineering applications are monolithic / solid, however, is this really ideal? Monolithic materials do not exploit negative / free space like nature does. Additionally, monolithic materials rarely exploit length scales and structural hierarchy like nature does.
Put simply, most materials developed to date are quite boring! A number of examples will be given regarding thinking outside the box and opportunities for the development of future materials, highlighting that materials design is an interdisciplinary area that will benefit most from concepts outside the field of materials science.