Materials informatics is a field of study that applies the principles of informatics to materials science and engineering to better understand the use, selection, development, and discovery of materials. This is an emerging field, with a goal to achieve high-speed and robust acquisition, management, analysis, and dissemination of diverse materials data.
This field of endeavor is not limited to some traditional understandings of the relationship between materials and information. Some more narrow interpretations include combinatorial chemistry, Process Modeling, materials property databases, materials data management and product life cycle management. Materials informatics is at the convergence of these concepts, but also transcends them and has the potential to achieve greater insights and deeper understanding by applying lessons learned from data gathered on one type of material to others. By gathering appropriate meta data, the value of each individual data point can be greatly expanded.
Beyond computational methods?
The concept of materials informatics is addressed by the Materials Research Society. For example, material informatics is the theme of the December 2006 issue of the MRS Bulletin. The issue was guest-edited by John Rodgers of Innovative Materials, Inc. and David Cebon of Cambridge University who describe the "high payoff for developing methodologies that will accelerate the insertion of materials, thereby saving millions of investment dollars."
The editors focus on a limited definition of materials informatics, "the application of computational methodologies to processing and interpreting scientific and engineering data concerning materials." They state that "specialized informatics tools for data capture, management, analysis, and dissemination" and "advances in computing power, coupled with computational modeling and simulation and materials properties databases" will enable such accelerated insertion of materials.
This view is not universally held. A broader definition goes beyond the use of computational methods to carry out the same experimentation. An evolved view of informatics creates a framework in which a measurement or computation is not simply a data point but a step in an information-based learning process that uses the power of a collective to achieve greater efficiency in exploration. When properly organized, this framework crosses materials boundaries to uncover fundamental knowledge of the basis of physical, mechanical, and engineering properties.
The overarching goals of bioinformatics and systems biology may provide a useful analogy. Andrew Murray of Harvard University expresses the hope that such an approach "will save us from the era of "one graduate student, one gene, one PhD". Similarly, the goal of materials informatics is to save us from one graduate student, one alloy, one PhD. Such goals will require more than applying computational methods to the same tasks set to current students.
(March 2007 JOM-e issue on M.I.)
- K. Rajan, Materials informatics, Materials Today, Volume 8, Issue 10, October 2005, Pages 38-45, ISSN 1369-7021, 10.1016/S1369-7021(05)71123-8.