We live in an increasingly complex material world. It frequently becomes necessary to produce a new object that will perform a particular function. A good way to begin this process is by compiling a list of properties the materials involved in producing that object will need – such as strength, malleability, resistance to water and so on.
Scientists and engineers can then invent new materials or develop existing ones which will match those requirements. The range of materials that we can produce is astonishing but many of them will have at least one thing in common.
You can explore a brief history of how and when scientists began to experiment with new materials and techniques in the following rich media scene:
STORY: New science, new materials, new power
SCENE: New materials: Plastics
In this module, you'll explore a specific type of material. The animation below explores various examples - can you identify what the common factor might be for these:
The examples shown are all made from polymers. The following learning module explores what a polymer is, shows what polymers have in common, and will look at how structural differences lead to different applications for polymers.
The centre section and outer wing panels of Mars Pathfinder have ribs constructed of a thin, light polymer. The ropes that secured the airbags for Pathfinder’s landing apparatus were reinforced with Kevlar.