CCST9036 Scientific and Technological Literacy
Frontiers in Materials: Civilisation, Industry, and Well-Being

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)

Course Description

“Materials Frontiers” underpin the survival and success of many sectors, from cosmetics and the creative industries, sports and well-being, energy and environment, mobility and transport, to quantum and metaverse technologies. Materials are ubiquitous, yet unique in their properties. Though the fundamental building blocks of materials were created soon after the Big Bang, their individual and collective behaviours continue to elude our mastery even with Big Data! They have emerged as a bedrock of human civilisation, underpining the ancient Three Ages (Stone, Bronze and Iron) to the modern Four Industrial Revolutions (1.0 to 4.0),  and shall become a beacon of societal advancement, “shining” into the quantum, the metaverse and the great unknown.

On the other hand,  each of us has already been equipped with materials covering more than half of the Periodic Table of the Elements – over 40 are in a smart phone. The rapid advancement in any modern technology is a consequence of the development of many new types of materials and our ability to make them sustainably and cost-effectively. For example, the discovery of silicon in the 19th century and the invention of the transistor in the 20th century paved the road for the “Information Age”. The development of graphene and related low-dimensional materials are poised to take us to a new “Age of Experience”.

The course is designed to introduce materials frontiers by a “top-down” approach in the context of current challenges and/or future applications. The purposes are to: 1) offer students a heuristic perspective of materials discovery for societal advancement; 2) equip students with a holistic understanding of materials types and technologies for key industrial sectors; and 3) inspire students with grand challenges and potential materials innovations for smart and sustainable development. The underlining principles in the design, processing, and functionalization of different types of materials will be naturally integrated into the application-oriented thematic topics.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Knowledge of different types of materials and their property attributes, and ability to explain the basic scientific principles of how these materials function.
  2. Ability to make informed decision in seelcting suitable types of materials for specific applications.
  3. Identify problems related to the improper usage and disposal of materials, and describe the impact of these problems to our society.
  4. Analyze simple scientific problems related to materials, to design and conduct simple experiments to solve these problems, and to organize, present, and discuss their findings in public or other workshops.
  5. Identify the frontline activities of materials development in the context of the current global issues and future demands.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Seminars 4
Reading / Self-study 25
Practical classes 6
Assessment: Essay / Laboratory report writing 45
Assessment: Group project and presentation 25
Assessment: In-class test 2
Total: 139

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Essay 30
Project presentation 25
Participation in practical sessions 30
Participation in discussion group 5
Quiz 10

Required Reading and Viewing

Most of the required readings will be supplied at the beginning of each “themed” lectures. The following short-readings can serve as a “starter”. 

  • Arunachalam, V. S., & Fleischer, E. L. (2000). Behind the themes and between the lines: Materials challenges for the next century. MRS Bulletin, 25(1), 3.
  • Arunachalam, V. S., & Fleischer, E. L. (2001). Materials challenges for the next century: A concluding note. MRS Bulletin, 26(12), 1020-1021.
  • Bensaude-Vincent, B., Hessenbruch, A. (2004). Materials science: a field about to explode? Nature Mater3, 345–347. From
  • Cottrell, A. (2000). A centennial report: Looking back on 100 years of materials of development. MRS Bulletin, 25(2), 125-132.
  • Katiyar, N. K., Goel, G., Hawi, S., et al. (2021). Nature-inspired materials: Emerging trends and prospects. NPG Asia Mater, 13(56). From
  • Making the future. (2022). Nat Synth, 1(1). From
  • Materials science: Materials science articles from across Nature Portfolio. From
  • Neto, A. H. C. (2010). The carbon new age. Materials Today, 13(3), 12-17.


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor Z.X. Guo
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2859 8905
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor Z.X. Guo
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2859 8905
Dr S. Lee
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Tel: 3910 2194
Dr Y. Wang
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Tel: 3917 6073
Dr K.K.H. Ng
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2859 8905