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Going to Extremes: The Protective Powers of High-Tech Materials

Evening Seminar

Monday, January 27, 2014 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Code: 1C0013

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Materials science is a burgeoning field that bridges science, technology, and manufacturing to adapt existing materials to fit new applications and create new materials tailored for specific and highly specialized purposes.

With uses that range from the everyday (a better home insulation material) to the out-of-this world (a heat shield for spacecraft), these new products of materials science combine innovation and utility—and show us how our future might look.

Get a glimpse of that future in a program that explores how new materials are being custom-designed to respond to some of the most extreme conditions.

Odile Madden, a research scientist with the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, provides an introduction to the field of materials science, surveying the evolution of materials from the naturally occurring to the most highly engineered.

Cathleen Lewis, curator of international space programs and spacesuits at the Air and Space Museum, explains how the physical challenges of extreme heat, cold, and microgravity can be met by new materials from which spacesuits are fabricated.

Engineered tissues that closely mimic those of the human body—and won’t be rejected—hold wide possibilities for grafting body parts. John Fisher, professor and associate chair in the Fischell department of bioengineering at the University of Maryland, examines their development.

Norman Wagner, the Alvin B. and Julia O. Stiles professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, discusses a fascinating prototype that can protect soldiers in combat: a nanoparticle liquid that can be added to fabrics to shield against shrapnel and other ballistic threats.

The program is presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW
Metro: Smithsonian Mall Exit (Blue/Orange)