As I sit and write this issue's Editorial, the unthinkable has happened: I appear to have lost access to my email account. “Lost”, conveying the appropriate sentiment, if not the most literal meaning: I’ve no doubt that access will be restored shortly once whatever system updates or hardware maintenance has been completed (and on redrafting this I can confirm that is the case), but the last few hours have been somewhat of a rude awakening over how much we, or at least I, rely on email.

I remember my first email account (on Hotmail), although I can’t recall the reason for setting it up. I suspect it was simply a matter of curiosity, and that I had no real intent to make serious use of it; or I may have only set it up to complete a compulsory field on a webpage. But today an email address is usually the most important piece of correspondence information anyone can provide, and we each send and receive dozens every day. Frequently this involves emailing colleagues just several meters away, and it's certainly a fair debate whether our use of email has become too ubiquitous, at the expense of more personal communication.

And so today's email hiatus has forced me consider what new technologies emerging today, that at first may appear to be curiosities will turn out to be essential to our work and private lives? Will some of the materials featured in the news and reviews of this issue turn out to be as revolutionary as steel and silicon? Or will our forays into webinars and virtual conferences come to be as important as their physical equivalents? (Take a look at this month's Comment for a discussion on what makes the ideal conference).

Perhaps one very real candidate, of course from the realms of materials science, is the 3D printer. What has rapidly moved from the lab into industry, with commercial models now available, could very soon be moving into the home. Indeed for those with the drive to do so, such a step is already possible; and the RepRap Project (short for replicating rapid prototype) is making strides towards being able to put such a device in the hands of anyone that wants one.

And of course no doubt the subjects of this issues’ articles will end up playing a part in the next generation of technologies we simply can’t live without. In our first review, Shang and Nienhaus consider how small fluorescent nanoparticles are being used to explore the nano-bio interface. Next, Lihong Wang and colleagues review the application of photoacoustic microscopy in tissue engineering. Hsisheng Teng et al.introduce strategies for tuning the electronic structure of graphene oxide (GO) and present GO as a mediator for photocatalytic water splitting. Finally, Huang and Langdon address new developments in the processing and properties of ultrafine-grained materials.

Until next time, we hope you enjoy this issue of Materials Today.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2013.03.022