Although there is always talk about how Earth may not have enough habitable space for whatever the future population may be, I have never been particularly worried about this. Over the last fifty years places on this planet that were only habitable to the occasional hunter-gatherer group have managed to support massive growing urbanisation. For instance the United Arab Emirates, despite being next to the Persian Gulf, is a desert biome in its natural state. Drinking water is obtained through massive desalination plants which use reverse osmosis to remove the salt from the sea water. Normally the filter which the water is forced through is thin film composite (a film made of multiple layers) which normally contains a polyamide (as an active component) and polysulphone (as a support) layer.
Metals are fated, like all things, to eventually decline and fail as various forms of damage are inflicted upon them over time. The lifetime of a metal is a feature of extreme importance, how long can you trust the girders of a bridge to support the weight of a car. Common sense tells us that eventually it must fail, but when? Being able to repair or “heal” metals would extend their lifetime considerably. These methods of healing could be external or integrated into the metal from inception. In biological systems it is the damage that triggers the healing, although recreating such an affect in metals is exceptionally difficult.
There is condensed matter physics, where particles have to adhere to eachother (hence the word condensed). There’s plasma physics, where electrons have stripped from all the atoms leaving just a gas of ions behind. There is also an intermediate step. This is where the temperature is such that the average kinetic energy of the electrons is about equal to the binding potential energy that holds them to the nuclei. This means it is too cold for condensed matter physics where its a guarantee that the electrons will be liberated, but too hot for condensed matter physics where the electrons are guaranteed to be bound. This is called warm dense matter and is not easily modelled by either branch of physics.
When two different components are mixed together and this mixture is brought past a phase change point a continuous network pattern in created so long as the proportions of the components are roughly equal. If there is a significant bias of volume for one side over the other, the minority disperses itself randomly as droplets of random size within the other material. A good example of this is spinodal decomposition. If water and oil are put together at high enough temperatures they will mix easily. If suddenly cooled from this state then the oil and water will separate as they thermodynamically have to and either the network or droplet pattern will form. Otswald ripening of these droplets can occur (also called coarsening) where the droplets grow bigger over time and reduce in number as the smaller droplets dissolve and deposit onto the larger droplets. It has also been noticed that during phase separation techniques, the separating components briefly form a similar network which quickly ripens into the droplet structure. Being able to control the patterns that materials form in one another could be very useful when it comes to various kinds of material design.
Perovskite is the name of a mineral of calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3). The structure of the mineral is shown on the right and any material that shares this structures is also called a perovskite (it should be noted that this is just one of the more common structures but others exist with symmetry below that of the cubic).
Perovskites have found a definite purpose in the world of physics. They demonstrate high efficiency energy conversions along with the ability for artificial versions to be manufactured using thin film production methods. The solar cell efficiencies when constructed with perovskites has improved from about 4% in 2009 to 22% (although the average is still 15%) in 2016 making it the fastest developing solar technology at the current time. One of the main problems presented by perovskite cells, however, is their instability and willingness to decay when exposed to moisture or ultraviolet light (that second one is a pretty big concern for a solar cell).
Superconductivity is a topic talked about often and it is no surprise to see why. Being able to create wires that have literally no resistance to the current flowing through them is an absolutely insane idea. The most recent major discoveries made in the superconducting field was that metal hydrides could be made into superconductors when they were placed under high pressure. The current record for the highest critical temperature is in trihydrogen sulphide (H3S) which became superconducting at 203K provided the conditions were at 200 gigaPascal of pressure.
It is an impressive feat of material science that our knowledge and applications for graphene in electronics has progressed faster than our ability to connect wires to it. To be able to apply graphene in industrial conditions metal-graphene contacts need to be able to be produced reliably with a low resistance (it should also be noted that many other 2D materials also rely on metal-graphene interface to operate). The problem is, we just can’t do it. The technology and processes employed to make the contact points results in a large range of resistances being found experimentally even for supposedly uniform interfaces.