One used to tell stories about using what we have (limitations) to build amazing stuffs. That is, if you are only given these specific resources, what can you do with it, combining them into something that does something you want? That isn’t something bad, but one would like to look more into the “limitations” part, especially for those that could use materials and hardwares on the bleeding edge: what kinds of limitations pull us back?

And one would say, material. Just imagine, what would the world be like without breakthroughs in material science? Just look at planes: in the previous century, or more specifically, when planes just started out, experiments are done with wooden planks. Now, imagine we don’t have light metals today, including titanium: planes would be made of wooden planks. We still can fly, of course. With a strong enough engine made of heavy metals, plus wooden planks (that are quite heavy), we could build a flying machine that roars through the sky. Yet, to speak about how fast it can go is really a question.

And speaks about engines: if we don’t have material that can withstand high temperatures, can we make jet engines? Iron have a melting point of 1,205 to 1,370 degree Celsius, and jet engines internal temperature can rise up to 1,700 degree Celsius. Limited by the melting point, your jet engines cannot produce full thrust to prevent melting.

Or speaks medieval: what if your armor are made of animal skins, and another country made of metal plates? Even a sharpen bamboo stick could pierce through (some) animal skins, and most strong blades could cut through most animal skins; but a single slice through metal plates, although deform them, not necessarily slice through them. In fact, most metal-plates armor defend against slices, while if you’re using animal skin, that isn’t guarantee. An upgrade in material means more opportunity and possibility.

P.S. Metal-plates doesn’t defend against pierce: it’s a different force that breaks the metal plates, or at least deform it in a direction that hurts the person wearing the armor. No wonder most army use spears, at least in China.

Not to say other stuffs are unimportant.

After all, materials only provide the base for more possibilities. Without other fields, even if we have lots of material, we couldn’t most effectively use them.

Take rocket engine. Consider a liquid hydrogen rocket engine. Without hydrogen, you have to find alternatives for rocket engine fuel, such as kerosene. With hydrogen, it’s not necessary you know how to convert gaseous hydrogen to liquid hydrogen; that’s why we need physics and engineering to do that. And such, it’s not just a bottle of hydrogen could make a rocket engine. Rocket engine have pumps that ensure the fuel burst in the correct direction, combined with movable thrusters for direction-changing. If you don’t have pumps, your bottle of hydrogen would just explode from within (if it’s gaseous, not sure about liquid hydrogen): it won’t burst down and push your bottle up, like a rocket. Maybe, and its only maybe, if your hydrogen is compressed, it might push down; but one isn’t sure whether the catastrophic would happen in that case if pressure isn’t high enough to ensure flames don’t spread into the bottle (tanks).


Material lies the base of invention. When a new material is developed, it’s likely people found ways to most effectively put it into use, with physics or other sciences. Similarly, as a base limitation, the lacking of material with a specific state means slow progress in scientific discoveries.

References: [1] [2]