PerspectiveMaterials Science

The Future of Metals

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Science  16 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5976, pp. 319-320
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185866

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On 15 December 2009, the world's most fuel-efficient commercial jetliner—the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—completed its first flight. The airliner is mostly made from carbon fiber–reinforced polymeric composites (50% by weight, up from 12% in the Boeing 777) (1). Traditional metals are substantially replaced by composites with higher strength/weight ratios; aluminum usage has dropped to 20% (versus 50% in the 777). Ever since the 1950s, when “engineering materials” mainly meant metals (2), the share of metals in engineering materials has been diminishing. What are the reasons behind this trend, and which applications are likely to stay in the domain of metals?