Mobile phones (or cell phones if you prefer) are, to my mind, fantastic. While the ability to call or message friends, family and colleagues is invaluable, it is the other features I find myself using most often. From emails, to web access, listening to podcasts, to launching furious cartoon birds at green pigs…

But why am I praising phones at this particular time? They have little to do with any of the articles in this month's edition of Materials Today. The reason being that I am currently tapping out this Editorial on my phone as I sit on a rather cramped train, on my way to the European Microscopy Congress in Manchester. While my laptop lies in my case, only centimetres away, it's simply too bulky to take out and use under the conditions of the carriage I have found myself in!

After recent announcements concerning the Higg's boson and advances in mapping the human genome, it's important not to lose sight of achievements made in materials science. While ground breaking achievements in materials science may not feature as heavily in the popular press as those made in particles physics (for example), the repercussions are felt much more strongly in our day to day lives: such as in the device I hold in my hand, with a lithium-ion battery, LCD touchscreen, CCD camera touch screen, flash memory, etc. Just glancing through the news pages reveals a small selection of studies that could lead to life changing applications.

Of course, mobile devices have featured heavily in the popular press over the last month or so, as courts have played host to lawyers and expert witnesses from and for Apple and Samsung. And this brings us to the topic of this month's Feature Comment, as Glenn Prestwich asks whether academics be effective expert witnesses, and offers some advice on any researchers considering stepping into court.

The rest of this month's issue looks at how new techniques are affecting the materials landscape, in characterization and at the borders of life science. Baptiste Gault and colleagues review new developments in the emerging area of “atom probe crystallography”, a tool with the capacity to study both composition and structure at the atomic scale. Meanwhile, Wilkinson and Britton look at the effect electron back scatter diffraction (EBSD) has had on our understanding of how microstructure should be defined and analyzed, and explore the advanced and exciting areas of strain mapping and 3D microscopy. Andreas Greiner et al. review recent efforts in the design, synthesis, and performance of PDMAEMA nanocomplexes with DNA, as a route to transfer genetic material into cells. Finally Martin Scholz and co-workers reveal a nano-coating formulation that allows biologically functionalized medical devices to be sterilized without compromising the biological integrity.

Until next time, we hope you enjoy this issue of Materials Today, whichever device you're reading it on!

Read full text on ScienceDirect

DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(12)70149-9