Career & Technical Education


A Technology Content Organizer (TCO)

Broadly defined as: The substance of physical objects


Materials allow the achievement of a wide range of national goals. Improved materials can help our economic prosperity, our health, our security, and the quality of our lives. A few materials contribute only to a single national goal. For example, our national security is enhanced by new combat aircraft that use stealth materials to help control their signature, but such materials are not at all desirable in use for commercial aircraft which need to be visible and easily identifiable. Such limitation is the exception, not the rule.

The ubiquitous nature of materials, entering into almost every industry and activity, makes materials a key set of enabling technologies for a multitude of goals. Advanced alloys, ceramics, composites, and polymers are enabling technologies for, among other ends, high-performance aerospace and surface transportation. This supports both civil and military systems. Functional materials, such as diamond thin films, can provide enhanced physical and electronic characteristics for a wide range of applications in the manufacturing and electronics industries. In turn, this couples not just to economic goals, but to other goals, from environmental to space exploration. New materials are also key to many manufacturing developments, whether through improving existing products or through creating entirely new possibilities.

The diversity of materials is also represented in the broad range of specific technologies listed under the sub-areas. No single assessment of the performance of the United States could be appropriate across such a range, and indeed, the international position of the United States in Materials is mixed. Although generally leading, there are some areas where the lead is shrinking or a lag has appeared. Some of these assessments are familiar, as the foreign lead in materials for semiconductor manufacturing, or the U. S. lead in polymer matrix composites. Others may be less familiar, as the good U. S. position in ceramic composites, where we do not yet lead the Europeans, but appear better positioned than the competition for the emerging market. Our long concentration on materials science has paid dividends.

Technology Areas

Ceramic materials
Electronic materials
Photonic materials
High energy/density materials
Highway/infrastructure materials
Biocompatible materials
Stealth materials
Aircraft structures


Background information on the National Critical Technologies report external icon link
Previously developed Course(s) under this TCO
Elementary-Level  Standards-Based Sample Lesson
Intermediate-Level  Standards-Based Sample Lesson
Commencement-Level  Standards-Based Sample Lesson
Materials Education Resource Center http://www.materialseducation.org/index.html external icon link
Material Property Data http://www.matweb.com/index.asp?ckck=1 external icon link
Materials http://www.nature.com/nmat/index.html external icon link
Materials Research Society http://www.mrs.org/s_mrs/index.asp external icon link

Note: The documents posted on this server contain hypertext links or pointers to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations. These links and pointers are provided for the user's convenience. The Education Department does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information. Further, the inclusion of links or pointers to particular items in hypertext is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered, on these outside sites, or the organizations sponsoring the sites.

Back to top

Last Updated: March 17, 2011