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Scientific Research: Opening the Door to the Future
Chapter 4 Domestic and Overseas Trends in Scientific Research
Section 2: Trends in Individual Research Fields
5. Materials Science

High-temperature superconducting oxides have been the focus of intense research efforts throughout the world over the past few years, and considerable theoretical research has been conducted regarding the mechanisms of superconductivity. The giant magnetic resistance (GMR) effect has also been the focus of both theoretical and applied research that has already resulted in the development of magnetic heads for high-density magnetic recording media. There has also been progress toward the synthesis of various substances, including fullerines and carbon nanotubes that enclose clusters of metallic atoms, conductive polymers, and high-performance polymers. Other research themes include the development or enhancement of functions, including molecular shapes, recognition capabilities, and self-organization characteristics. Products of this work include inclusion compounds, super-molecules, high-selectivity asymmetric synthetic catalysts, and artificial bimolecular membranes.

Biochemical research has brought greater understanding of biomolecular structures, including the mechanisms of energy exchange proteins, and there is a growing tendency to explain life phenomena at the molecular level. Higher functions, such as cerebral and neural processes, are also likely to be explained in terms of molecular science. Future research is also expected to lead to the molecular design of artificial proteins and sugar chains with new functions, such as the ability to suppress the emergence of genes.

New developments in the area of measurement and analysis technology include the use of charge-coupled devices (CCDs) in X-ray crystallography, spectroscopic analysis of radiation light, and the detection of localized magnetism by means of microporous elements attached to monocrystals. Research is also focusing on methods that target single chemicals or molecules, such as ultramicroanalysis and laser manipulation.

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