A strategic proposal “Design and utilization technology for controlling spaces
and gaps in advanced materials” consists of a comprehensive package of scientific methodology and implementation technology to explore and develop cutting-edge functional materials and devices. The materials are named “spaces and gaps controlled materials (SGCM)” that include nano-porous, meso-porous, nano-tube, and layered compounds synthesized by self-organization process. This strategic project proposes R&D subjects to fully cultivate the potential of SGCM in terms of basic science and practical development as well. It also proposes an effective network approach for research-enhancing collaborative organization and research funding system as well. The execution of the proposal provides challenges and opportunities to create a new academic field and to achieve solutions for various difficult global issues in the field of environment, natural resources and medical health we are facing, paving the way for the sustainable society.
“Spaces and gaps” refers to free spaces embedded in topological networks composed of constituent atoms and chemical bonds connecting them, which is considered as a key component to understand mechanism for emerging functionalities of materials in various aspect, specifically dimension of the space. For example, nano-sized spaces create material functionalities by controlling physical and chemical interactions among the spaces and surrounding walls. Further, macro-sized spaces relax mechanical stress inside the materials, for instance, to stabilize whole bulk structures.
It has been clarified recently that configuration, chemical bonding and energy states of constituent atoms around the “spaces and gaps” primarily define performance of the materials such as efficiencies of energy conversion between different types of energy including optical, electrical, thermal, chemical and mechanical ones, and mass transport capability. With an extension of scientific concept of the “spaces and gaps” to what includes interface and surface, an academic platform is provided where fusion of multi-disciplinary fields takes place, leading to the creation of a new scientific field. The concept accelerates seamless connection of seed-oriented fundamental research with need-driven development.
Recent progress in design flexibility and controllability in materials science enables to develop new advanced materials, whose functions have been hardly realized by conventional techniques developed for bulk materials. In particular, discovery and development of innovative materials have attracted much attention in the fields of environment, natural resources, energy, chemical separations, catalytic reactions, optoelectronics, superconductivity, construction materials and bio-materials. Enhancement of performance of these materials is also important for “biodiversity” and “sustainable society”. The generalized concept of the space and gaps works as a guiding principle to achieve above mentioned target. These concepts and procedures for material development, together with necessity for elementary technologies contribute to providing solutions to the global issues, resulting in strengthening international competitiveness of our country.
This strategic program consists mainly of the following three subjects:
A: Design and synthesis of SGCM: Maximization of functionalities
B: Implementation technologies of SGCM: Promotion of applications
C: Common basic technologies: Measurement, analysis, clarification of scientific
mechanism, and computer simulation
Subject A is the seed-oriented research for designing new structures and functionalities, and synthesizing SGCM. On the other hand, Subject B, the most distinct feature of this strategic program, covers a set of implementation technologies, which is necessary for the application of elemental seed technologies in Subject A to practical developments in order to meet the social needs. Examples of Subject B include technologies related to realization of microscopic functionality in macroscopic scale, increase in robustness, mass production with high yield and speed, and cost reduction. This strategic program encourages proposal of an implementation technology itself to meet an individual social need. Subject C refers to common basic technologies for both Subjects A and B, consisting of measurement, analysis of chemical reactions, mass-transports, and other relevant phenomena in the nano-scaled “spaces and gaps”. Various kinds of measurements and analyses such as microscopes, diffraction measurements and computer simulations are inevitably important for this strategic project.
Smooth execution of the project requires synergy of multi-disciplinary fields through communication among those who are involved in different stage of efforts from exploratory research to commercialization over various technical fields. Those involved in basic and applied researches differ in their standpoints and final targets, which sometime causes various difficulties in communication due to the lack of common language. To eliminate these difficulties the strategic project proposes research funding system and research organization with a center of expertise surrounded by networked satellites, which promote fusion spontaneously among fundamental researches covering vertically expanding areas and target-driven developments spreading over horizontally diversified fields.