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Culture and civilization are shaped to a large extent by the production of materials. And so too is the future. From stoneware, bronzeware, ironware, semiconductors, and, … what material will be next? In this department, we work not only on converting natural substances into materials that are useful to humanity, but also on designing and learning to create materials that do not even exist in the natural world—by working on the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels of substances.

We are scientifically investigating the technology and theory for transforming substances that occur abundantly in the natural world into materials that can benefit humanity and the future of the planet. The development of new materials that do not occur in the natural world, yet which can be used in environmentally friendly ways. For this, we need to integrate a broad range of knowledge that encompasses physics, chemistry, and biology, and to invent methods for designing and creating new materials at the quantum level—that is, at the level of electrons, atoms, and molecules.
We anticipate that this will impart renewed impetus to human civilization, which has been shaped by the wide-ranging benefits of materials, and serve as a blessing for all forms of life.

The Department of Metallurgy in the Faculty of Engineering at Kyoto University has its beginnings in the Department of Mining and Metallurgy that was set up when the university was founded as the Kyoto Imperial University in 1897. The department was established in 1961 as the Department of Metal Science and Technology. In a restructuring in 1994, the Department of Applied Energy Engineering was split off from the department, to enable a greater focus on materials science. And the Department of Materials Science and Engineering now operates as a 21st Century Center of Excellence (COE). Thus, the evolution of the department has been remarkable.

Please observe all the materials that surround us. Functional materials used in so many different applications are now supporting cutting-edge technology. Consider the semiconductors used in solid-state electronic components such as lasers, LEDs, and solar cells. Fine ceramics are used in sensors and the electrodes of high-performance secondary cells, and in electronic devices. Solid electrolytes and high-performance solvents are essential for fuel cell operation. Magnetic materials and amorphous alloys are employed as materials for magnetic heads and memory chips. In addition, superconducting materials are used to make linear motors and computers. These are some typical examples of modern functional materials. Now, consider structural materials. High-tensile steel is indispensable as a construction material for high-rise buildings and massive bridges. Super heat-resistant alloys are critical in aircraft jet engines. Lightweight alloys make low-fuel-consumption automobiles possible. Shape-memory alloys are used in mobile phone antennas and robots. Without these materials we would not be able to live as we do. It is hoped that new, environmentally friendly materials that have innovative functions can be produced to help extent the boundaries of cutting-edge technological fields such as the development of new energy sources, the development of the oceans, the development of outer space, and information technology. In this way, materials underpin all kinds of industries in contemporary society and drive economic growth. The importance of their role continues to grow steadily.

The future is shaped through the harnessing materials and technologies. Materials science is an ever evolving scientific discipline. And Japan plays a key role on the world stage of materials science. With its free-thinking academic approach and creative ideas, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Kyoto University has long been at the cutting-edge of materials science in Japan. By harnessing the intellectual energy and passion of young scientists, the Department sees unlimited potential for creating novel, groundbreaking materials for use in next-generation applications.