Materials science is an applied science which seeks to understand the properties of natural and man-made substances. Materials science blends knowledge and techniques from an array of disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering. This field has an equally broad range of applications: from bio-engineering to energy to product R & D. One question of primary importance to materials scientists is the suitability of materials to different tasks. As such, materials science is one of the most directly applicable disciplines to commercial enterprises and many materials scientists are employed in the research and development departments of technology companies.
Materials science is considered to be one of the most fertile areas for application of nanotechnology. Materials scientists make up one of the largest groups of atomic force microscopists and are well represented among users of other cutting edge analytical tools. As the real scope of materials science becomes better understood, the discipline is spreading beyond the traditional fields of chemistry and mechanical engineering and into areas like forensics and failure analysis. The principles of materials science are also being applied to biological and bio-engineering questions, such as probing the elasticity of cancer cells.
In addition to the study and improvement of existing materials, materials scientists work on inventing entirely new materials. This tradition dates back to the efforts of early metallurgists and alchemists. More recent examples of synthetic materials created within this field include nylon, polyester, Kevlar, and Styrofoam. The exciting new study of nanomaterials largely takes place under the umbrella of materials science. This includes breakthroughs such as the creation of carbon nanotubes, nanowires, and buckyballs.
Much of the cutting-edge materials science is taking place on the nano-scale, as researchers investigate the molecular and atomic structure of materials. Due to the high levels of precision involved in such research, the instrumentation is naturally vulnerable to even small environmental noise levels. What’s more, many materials scientists will be probing very specific characteristics of materials which require them to integrate their own instrumentation. It is difficult to control the sensitivities of homemade instruments.
Many of the applications in this field involve manipulation of nano-scale materials which increases the instrument’s need for a quiet environment to carry out the operations within. When your experiment involves moving single atoms or assembling carbon nanotubes, it isn’t hard to imagine that even the slightest disturbance can render your efforts futile.
Any researchers hoping to assemble a lab for materials research should take great care in assessing the noise requirements of the location. EMI, acoustic, and vibration testing equipment should be utilized to determine which building, which place within a building, or which place within a room is optimal to locate sensitive instruments. It is assumed that measures will need to be taken to reduce instrument and AFM noise, such as supplementary active vibration control systems, soundproof hoods, and EMI cancellation systems.