January 14, 2011

Series Explores Latest Materials Innovation, Research

NOVA's four-part series, Making Stuff: Stronger, Smaller, Cleaner, Smarter to premiere on January 19, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on local PBS stations

How do far-out creations, such as airplanes that change shape in flight, invisibility cloaks or military vehicles that heal themselves, become realities? Via scientific discoveries and generation of new materials, of course.

New and often revolutionary uses for materials are endless, and materials innovations drive civilization and inspire scientific breakthroughs.

It's that notion that motivated the popular science television series NOVA to take viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of the world of materials.

In a new, four-part NOVA series, Making Stuff: Stronger, Smaller, Cleaner, Smarter, New York Times technology reporter David Pogue travels the globe to examine the latest advancements in materials research and to find out what the future might hold in this field. The series airs on four consecutive Wednesdays, beginning Jan. 19, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on local PBS stations.

Major funding for Making Stuff is provided by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Informal Science Education program. NSF's Directorate for Math and Physical Sciences also provides funding through its Division of Materials Research and Office of Multidisciplinary Activities. Additional funding is provided by the Department of Energy.

The NOVA team in association with the Materials Research Society produced the series.

The Making Stuff series will kick-off with, Making Stuff: Stronger, investigating the world's strongest materials. The episode examines what these materials are and how "strength" is defined. Pogue tests materials ranging from the large colorful beaks of toucan birds to steel cables, as he seeks to find the strongest materials in the world and discover how scientists are re-engineering natural materials to make them even stronger in the future.

Additional episodes in this four-part series include:

Making Stuff: Smaller (premieres Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET/PT)

Explore some of the world's smallest materials and how recent developments in high-powered nano-circuits and micro-robots impact our daily lives. What are the vast technological implications of these "small" technologies? Pogue examines this question as he takes the audience on an investigative tour of the smallest materials at the atomic level.

Making Stuff: Cleaner (premieres Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET/PT)

Pogue investigates clean energy and the use of materials to create a cleaner environment. What materials can we develop to help clean the environment? How can bio-based fuels be used as efficient energy sources? Innovations such as tires made from orange peels, batteries grown from viruses and plastics made of sugar are just the tip of the iceberg of future energy sources.

Making Stuff: Smarter (premieres Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET/PT)

Can we use materials around us to pioneer new technologies that react to their environment? What if an Army tanker truck could heal itself following bullet damage? How can sharkskin be used to create an antibacterial spray? Researchers find inspiration from nature and beyond as they explore new ways to develop and utilize various materials.

To learn more about the science behind the series, see these web features:

"The World's Strongest Stuff"  

"Nature's Super-Materials"  

"Taking the Heat"  

"Materials That Changed History"  

"Inside NOVA" blog posts on Making Stuff"  


Image Caption: New York Times technology reporter David Pogue travels the globe to examine the latest advancements in materials research and to find out what the future might hold. Here he examines the strength of steel. Credit: Courtesy of WGBH Boston