At this time of year, thoughts for many journalists and blogger annually turn to evergreens…not the non-deciduous trees, but the perennial subjects that come round again and again with the festive seasons. The pharmaceutical compounds being investigated in holly berries or those of that traditional excuse to spread rhinovirus, the mistletoe. There are the inevitably warming stories of whisk(e)y being the "water of life" and the supposed health benefits of the occasional tipple. The unbalanced diet that comes around every festive season whether you're into Winterval, Xmas, Yule, or a follower of some other solstice celebration.

But, aside from the polymers used to mould the shoddy gifts in Christmas crackers or the maladjusted authenticity of a fake Christmas tree, those writing about materials science might struggle to home in on a festive theme. One might allude to the composites used in a wide range of sporting equipment these days, the racquets and bats and balls, often mixed blends of polymers, carbon fibre and increasingly nanotubes and other "modern" materials. Then there is the inevitable charging period of the slowly developing lithium ion batteries that will be present in almost every gadgety gift received from electronic book reader to automatic pepper mill. Long gone are the days of "batteries not included", these days it is difficult to find a gift that does not come with them built in.

And, speaking of power, the gift of solar power might come to a lot of people this year, especially those of an outdoor or environmentally aware inclination. While we have discussed endless variations on photovoltaics in the journal during 2012, it still seems that the low-cost chargers for mobile phones, mp3 players and camping lights etc are based on the tried and tested silicon semiconductor photovoltaics at the low-end of the market at least. Perhaps next year some of the more cutting edge materials will be entering the industrial development phase and we will see higher-efficiency chargers and supercapacitors displacing the silicon PVs and Li batteries.

While we spend much of the year discussing the avant garde research emerging from laboratories across the globe, inevitably there is a lag time between the academic eureka moment and the spin out of a company that can take such developments to viable economic production. I recall writing in the early 1990s about the research being done here in Cambridge on novel polymer chemistry to feed the demands of physicists there hoping to develop organic LEDs. That work, of course, led to Cambridge Display Technology. There were other companies elsewhere in the world emerging at the same time. But, it is only really in the last few years that OLEDs for displays and more recently "green" lighting have come to the fore.

There is so much going on in materials research that is about to bloom, but not so much in time for this holiday season. Give it a year or two and the festive blog will likely be talking about solar-powered, graphene based tablet PCs that work for weeks on end without recharging, run at 100 gigabits per second download speeds and cost a hundredth of today's prices. Of course, in the same blog post I'll also most likely be writing about a graphene-based chimney liner to help Santa Claus slide down with his sack of goodies that little bit easier too...

David Bradley blogs at and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".