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The industrial revolution ushered in an era of technology growth that has over the years changed according to human needs. Every period in time has had unique problems that people have used technology to solve. All fields that help the optimum functioning and survival of humanity on the planet have been undergoing technological evolutions that in many ways have made life better on earth. Medicine, education, construction, and communication have all been positively affected by technology.
The 21st century has is facing serious challenges like no other time in the course of human development. However, the challenges that the world is facing right now come at the backdrop of increased pollution and environmental degradation, global terror, economic crises and humanity crises like war.
One of the most dominant problems the world is facing now is environmental degradation and pollution. It is estimated that most world’s natural forests and a good number of animal species would have disappeared by the year 2050 if no action is taken. There is also the problems of increased cost of living, poverty and the threat of global economic collapse.
These challenges have necessitated the need for development of designs using new materials that aim to conserve the environment, reduce costs for companies and governments while at the same time improving the standards of living for the planet’s eight billion people. Innovation therefore has become an unavoidable goal and objective in the pursuit of materials that whose design can help address the challenges highlighted above.
Current product development dynamics operate in a rapidly changing technological environment. Emphasis has been laid on product complexity or simplicity as well as life cycle. Innovative material concepts are growing rapidly in response to the challenges facing the humanity and to fulfill the new design opportunities that have been created. Material selection also takes into account the durability and reliability aspects that various product designs need.
Some aspects including the environment, tenacity of the material, safety, and cost saving aspects, guide designers. The designs with the new improved materials aim at providing maximum benefits to the end users, promote sustainability as well as reducing dependence on the irreplaceable natural resources. Some of these materials are nano-structured materials, smart materials as well as spin off materials mainly used in the aerospace industry and renewable materials that are expected to provide an alternative to materials of fossil origin.
This paper will focus on products that have been manufactured out of designs that are made from new materials. The industries that the high tech designed materials fall include aerospace, motor vehicle, building, and construction.
It’s important to note that the designs discussed here focus on the specific elements of products from the aerospace, auto and building and construction industries. It’s also important to note that the designs are specifically made from new materials or materials that have been modified to serve as new materials.
Aerospace and aviation
One of the industries that use some of the most advanced technologies today is the aerospace industry. These needs are mainly motivated by the challenges that the consumers are facing in the, market the need include building new aircraft for defense, climate and weather monitoring and space exploration.
There is also the need to produce environmental friendly materials that will be used in the manufacture of equipment that produces minimal pollution. Innovation in the industry has led to the adoption of high tech ways that improve the current materials besides producing completely new ones.
Materials commonly used in the aviation sector include refractory metals, molybdenum, tantalum, tungsten, and rhenium. There are also ceramic materials as well as electronic chemicals and functional materials. These materials have been developed over time. They have undergone transformation and converted to new materials that the aviation industry uses with numerous advantages that address the 21st challenges.
The new materials have been able to offer aviation equipment extended life with super alloys of tungsten, molybdenum, tantalum, niobium. In addition, aviation industries have produced new materials and technology using yttrium-stabilized zirconium that has led to efficient fuel consumption for both commercial and aircraft.
Though space exploration started in the 1960’s a lot is still to be achieved and space exploration has acquired new importance especially as human beings look up to new places to exploit minerals and dump toxic wastes like nuclear. The discovery of ceramics and its use in outer space travels have proved to be a vital development in aviation and aerospace industry with new materials helping in heat insulation especially on the international space station.
Additionally, Boeing the world’s leading plane manufacturer recently unveiled a passenger plane made exclusively out of carbon materials that they believe will make the aircraft lighter and efficient in fuel consumption.
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Making lightweight vehicles is a concept that manufacturers of motor vehicles have pursued since the discovery of the motor vehicle. Like in the aerospace industry, lightweight vehicles are efficient in their consumption of fuels, a concern that 21st century environmentalists and business people share. Changes for instance to the Fuel Economy in the US has forced automakers to research on new materials to design new light weight vehicles whose consumption of fuels is significantly reduced.
Experts estimate that vehicles whose weight is reduced by 10% will have their consumption of fuels reduced by 3-7%. Additionally, lightweight vehicles manufactured with lightweight materials have sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the lifecycle of the vehicle. Furthermore, lightweight vehicles have lower noise levels compared to old models.
The materials used in the production of lightweight vehicles have been modified over time. Regular steel has been the main material in vehicle production for a long time.
However, other materials like high-strength steel, aluminium, and composites have increasingly found use in lightweight vehicle manufacturing especially the 21st century. In the 21st century, magnesium and composites have found greater use in vehicle manufacturing in the pursuit of lightweight vehicles. Nowadays composites especially carbon fibres make up 50% of the total vehicle volumes.
The current vehicle designs involving composites are for cosmetic purposes. Nevertheless, like in the aerospace industry, car-manufacturing companies like BMW and Daimler have started joint ventures aimed at increasing the use of composite materials in structural construction of cars.
Already the new MBW Megacity relies heavily on carbon fibres components for structural elements. According to BMW and Daimler, the new partnership on new vehicle manufacturing materials aims to introduce carbon fibre vehicles into the market to address the challenges presented by the existing models.
Additionally, industry players are emphasizing on the development of multilateral designs that will help in the production of optimal lightweight vehicle designs.
Sustainability is the most talked about and widely held notion that guides human endeavors in the world today. Furthermore, sustainability has environmental, social, and economic dimensions that affect all human life aspects on the planet. The construction industry besides the ones discussed above bears the greatest responsibility in environmental degradation.
The choice of materials used in the industry determines the effects the environment bears and if they are friendly or not. The idea behind improving materials used in the construction industry is to improve the efficiency of buildings and improving their capability in recycling and reusability. Many of the buildings that have come up in the past have been refurbished or decommissioned. Construction engineers tend to consider these building a great source of reusable materials that can be salvaged through harvesting.
Salvaged materials have become part of the designs of buildings in the 21st century. The use of salvaged materials according to environmentalists is one of the most effective ways of conserving natural resources that have widespread economic benefits. Architects and construction engineers are nowadays emphasizing the designing of buildings that facilitate this phenomenon, which provides responsible environmental building designs in the industry.
Building designs and construction is now focused on deconstruction rather than demolition. Salvaged material have become so important in the industry that its expected that if the trend catches up with many mainstream building firms, the planet will be saved of millions of hectares of forests by the year 2050.
Many buildings have been designed using salvaged materials especially in Canada where forest conservation has given impetus. In the city of Vancouver for instance, the Vancouver Materials Testing Lab and the C.K. Choi and Liu Centre buildings serve to demonstrate the success that is designing buildings with salvaged materials.
The materials used in the lab were salvaged from demolished warehouse buildings in the city. The main aim of this project was to demonstrate that salvaged materials could be used to achieve multiple environmental. Custom components of the building are made from fabricated materials salvaged from the demolished buildings.
Additionally, glazing material used in the building is made from salvaged glass. In this particular project, it’s estimated that the savings that have been made through the use of salvaged materials amount to over $50, 000. That is the monetary side of the savings. When environmental benefits are incorporated, the advantages are even more. However, there needs to be more involvement of technology in the new material designs for benefits to be widely felt.
There are numerous designs of products and other works that have been achieved by the use of materials specifically adapted to 21st century problems. The above three industries’ products form some of the needy areas where new designs with new materials are needed.
The challenges that face people in this century show little signs of abating despite the technological progress made. Designs using new materials will form one of the most basic approaches to alleviating these challenges. When combined with other cost cutting factors, the new designs using new materials will go along way in helping the long-term environmental sustainability of the planet as well as economic growth.
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Brooke, L. A Featherweight Future. Automotive Engineering International. (2009). pp. 24-26.
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- Ichikawa, K. Functionally graded materials in the 21st century: a workshop on trends and Forecasts, Springer. (2002). pp. 56-60.
- Trilling, B. Et al. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times: Volume 1. (2009). Pp 150-187.
- Inns, T. Designing for the 21st Century: Interdisciplinary Methods and Findings: Volume 2 – P 181
- Ashley, S. Shedding pounds on a magnesium diet. Automotive Engineering International. (2010), pp. 34-36.
- Brooke, L. A Featherweight Future. Automotive Engineering International. (2009). pp. 24-26.
- Ichikawa, K. Functionally graded materials in the 21st century: a workshop on trends and Forecasts, Springer. (2002). 56-60.