Materials and material development are fundamental to our very culture. We even ascribe major historical periods of our society to materials such as the stone age, bronze age, iron age, steel age (the industrial revolution), polymer age, silicon age, and silica age (the telecoms revolution). This reflects how important materials are to us. We have, and always will, strive to understand and modify the world around us and the stuff of which it is made. As the 21st century unfolds, it is becoming more apparent that the next technological frontiers will be opened not through a better understanding and application of a particular material, but rather by understanding and optimizing material combinations and their synergistic function, hence blurring the distinction between a material and a functional device comprised of distinct materials.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(04)00506-1