Science in the Afternoon

Materials Technology Is the Key to the Next Century, Engineer Gronsky Tells Alumni

by Robert Sanders

A group of long-time alumni succumbed to the enthusiasm of engineering's Ron Gronsky April 25 as he regaled them with the wondrous achievements of materials science, concluding with a glimpse into the future and a brief plug for the campus's ambitious New Materials Initiative.

Gronsky, chair of materials science and mineral engineering, was the last of three speakers in the "Cal in the Afternoon" series sponsored by the California Alumni Association.

Gronsky carried the audience through a difficult subject with a breathless delivery that convinced the house that new materials research was the key to the next century.

Today, he said, such research has provided us with better, cheaper materials than ever before, ranging from the advanced titanium alloy that makes the new Boeing 777 both light and strong, to new solid lubricants that can withstand the extremes of space.

The future holds even more surprises as still better techniques arrive for looking at and manipulating materials down to the level of the atom--techniques with names such as holographic reconstruction, nanophase processing and biomimetic processing.

"We can control how things go together and engineer these materials for new applications," he said. "We've reached the point where we can engineer materials one atom at a time."

He touted some of the work at Berkeley, like that of physicists Marvin Cohen and Alex Zettl, which will provide the groundwork for new materials applications in the 21st century. They and Gronsky are among the 90 faculty who have banded together in the New Materials Initiative, a priority of the upcoming fund-raising campaign.

He concluded his whirlwind tour with a plea for the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, which needs a major seismic retrofit to make it a safe home for Gronsky's department.

With the help of alumni, the College of Engineering hopes to raise $28 million to add to state funds made available through the recent passage of Proposition 203.


Copyright 1996, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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