Mechanical and functional properties of materials are closely related to atomic-scale imperfections, such as grain boundaries, interfaces, surfaces, vacancies, interstitials, dopants, segregation atoms, and dislocations. These crystal imperfections have peculiar electronic structures, caused by the disorder in periodicity, and provide functional properties which cannot be observed in a perfect crystal. Dopants or impurities are often segregated in the vicinity of the imperfections around the order of 1 nanometer, and play a crucial role in the material properties. We call these dopants "function providing elements", and they have the potential to change the macroscopic properties of the materials drastically.
To obtain guidelines for designing materials by atomic scale modification, an understanding of the atomistic mechanisms for the "function providing elements" is required, as well as precise measurements of the state of trace elements segregated in the imperfection region. Recent progress in advanced microscopy and spectroscopic techniques has made it possible to study the imperfections quantitatively on an atomic or electronic scale. At the same time, first principles and multi-scale theoretical calculations play a great role in this field. Advances in theory and calculation techniques can be now applied to more complex and realistic systems. We therefore find ourselves entering an entirely new stage in materials science.
In 2007, we proposed a new concept, "Nano-Materials Science for Atomic Scale Modification", to understand the nature of "function providing elements" at the atomic and electronic scale. This concept was adopted as a big project in a priority area from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT). Since then, we have organized several symposia and topical sessions on the subject of "function providing elements", mainly at the annual meetings of the Japan Institute of Metals (JIM) in order to exchange our ideas with other scientists. To our great pleasure, not only members of the JIM, but also a number of researchers from many other societies contributed papers to these symposia and joined in the lively discussions. The success of the domestic symposia led us to organize the AMTC 1 (Advanced Microscopy and Theoretical Calculation) symposium in Nagoya, Japan in 2008. In addition, we organized an international workshop on theoretical calculations of ELNES and XANES (TEX2008) in 2008. We are also planning to organize the AMTC 2 symposium and the 13th International Conference on Intergranular and Interphase Boundaries in Materials (iib2010). The latter will be held as the JIMC7 conference. These conferences cover a wide area of materials science and nanotechnology: interface and grain boundaries, surfaces, lattice defects, advanced microscopy and spectroscopy, modeling and simulations, and materials processing. Coverage of topical subjects is confidently expected to lead to future breakthroughs in materials science and engineering, which will create the new field of "Nano-Materials Science for Atomic Scale Modification".
On this occasion, we have encouraged the project members and related researchers to submit papers for this topical issue of the Materials Transactions. More than 30 interesting papers have been accepted for publication as shown in this issue. We hope that these papers will be useful for the people in materials science, and contribute to the development of nano-techonology in the future. We acknowledge the support from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT) for the Grant-in-aid for priority area (No. 474) on "Nano-Materials Science for Atomic Scale Modification
—A key concept for new materials innovation—".
March 13, 2009
(Received ; Accepted ; Published )
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