Friday 14 March: 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Wolfson Lecture Theatre Department of Chemistry, University Chemical LaboratoryLensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1EW

The development of the silicon chip fifty years ago was the materials science innovation that sparked the information technology revolution. Such new materials do more than transform technology, they change behaviour and shape the urban landscape, from our cities, to our hospitals, to our homes, to our art. Thus materials are a defining characteristic of society, which is why the ages of civilization are named after materials. We are about to enter a new age, one that challenges the very notion of material itself.

Whatever people think about the rapid pace of change of technology, our most fundamental categorization of stuff on the planet has not altered: there are living things that we call life, and there is non-living stuff that we call rocks, tools, buildings and so on. As a result of our greater understanding of matter, this distinction is now becoming blurred and is likely to usher in a new materials age. Bionic people with synthetic organs, bones and even brains will be the norm. Just as we are becoming more synthetic, so our man-made environment is changing to become more lifelike: living buildings, and objects that heal themselves are on the horizon. With the aid of demonstrations this lecture reviews the changes to the material world that are coming our way.