“We can do it faster.”


The Materials Genome Initiative is not only an investment in accelerated materials development, but also recognition of the role that science can play in sustainable economic growth.

“The invention of silicon circuits and lithium ion batteries made computers and iPods and iPads possible, but it took years to get those technologies from the drawing board to the market place. We can do it faster.” President Obama was optimistic when outlining his expectations at the launch of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), a project that aims to double the speed and reduce the cost of discovering, developing, and deploying new technological materials. 1

Illustration 1.

Diagram illustrating the Materials Genome Initiative. Figure courtesy of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In essence, the initiative seeks to tie together computational and experimental efforts to find materials with optimized properties for applications. With a cross-disciplinary and “all hands on deck” approach that involves academic institutions, small and large businesses, professional societies, and government, some specific target areas have already been identified. In particular, the MGI has set its sights on environmental, healthcare, and national security challenges – three areas often seen as the ones in which new materials can make the biggest impact.

One hundred million dollars was committed to the MGI in 2012 alone, including $12 million to the Department of Energy to combine computational and experimental tools with digital data to develop and advance materials, and $17 million for the Department of Defense, for research to improve the prediction and optimization of properties. New efforts have also been funded at the National Science Foundation, with the ‘Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future’ program, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

Materials science related societies have welcomed the investment 2 whilst noting the project's outgrowth from a 2008 study by the National Research Council that acknowledged “the value of implementing integrated computational materials engineering as a means to optimize materials, manufacturing processes, and component design long before fabrication begins.” 3

The MGI recognizes the value of science to the growth of the economy and in creating new jobs, as well as tackling challenging problems of national significance. This is an encouraging viewpoint regarding the importance of science, though not a revolutionary one. The difference here is that the President has taken a much more hands-on and prescriptive approach in funding a specific approach to specific problems, instead of dedicating more money to funding bodies or institutions to be used as they choose.

The USA is by no means the only country using science at a fundamental level as a focus to help promote growth during difficult economic times. Ireland, for instance, is targeting “14 areas of scientific research that have the greatest potential to create jobs and companies.” 4 These efforts are all extremely welcome in an environment where budget cuts are the norm and research funding is being squeezed.

The implications of the MGI for polymer science are massive, with polymers playing a crucial role in many of the technologies of interest to the initiative. Most of these applications rely on optimized physical properties of the polymers involved, be those optical, charge- or ion-transport, mechanical, or other properties; more often than not, a specific combination is required.

The first issue of this new volume of the Journal of Polymer Science: Polymer Physics highlights the study of new properties of polymers, often with applications in mind. Our first Review covers square arrays of block copolymers, vital to an electronics industry that operates on square, not hexagonal, templates, with a second Review covering roll-to-roll printing of conducting polymers for electronics applications. Our full papers cover topics as diverse as stretchable actuators, capacitors, and nanocomposites. In the spirit of the MGI, modeling also makes an appearance, with simulations used to study the morphology of conjugated polymers and fullerenes to optimize solar cells.

More broadly the journal continues to grow, not only in scope and content, but also in its services to authors. We recognize the rapidly changing research and funding environment in which our authors are working, and realize that flexibility in publishing your results is key. To this end, we want to remind you that we offer an “Online Open” option to enable you to publish your papers open access if you wish. All submissions follow an identical peer review and production process, so you can still be assured of the journal's reputation and professional handling, no matter how your paper is ultimately made available.

Of course, faster development of materials demands that your peers know about your work more quickly too, a challenge that we're committed to meeting. For the past two years we've offered online publication just 15 days after acceptance, and with our rapid peer review, there are many papers published online less than 50 days after first submission by the author.

We're excited to start to see the fruits of the MGI and similar projects in the papers we receive. If you have questions about us or whether your paper falls within our scope, you can always contact our editors at jpsphys@ wiley.com; we look forward to hearing from you.