Mechanics thrives whenever it participates in advancing a new technology
This morning I was looking at the book Mechatronic Reliability by Wei Yang. The forword I wrote for the book brought back memories of days he and I spent in Santa Barbara and Princeton. The text of the forword follows.
Historically, mechanics thrives whenever it participates in advancing a new technology. The language finds new variants, the tools unravel new mysteries. There are, however, only a finite number of basic mechanics problems in a given technology. When these problems are solved, some of us stay and evolve with the technology, and others move on to newer technologies. In the past two centuries, mechanics has impacted all major technologies—construction, transportation, and energy. The dazzling success makes us feel, at times, intellectually settled. But never should it blind us from new opportunities. Only in confronting new challenges do we realize how immature our science is.
In the coming decades one major source of challenges will be microelectronics and communication systems. The feature size in integrated circuits is now about a tenth of a micron-meter. Nanostructures are being developed for photonic networks. Both technologies involve diverse materials. Each functional part in a device is subject to intense thermodynamic forces—thermal, mechanical, electrical and chemical—all acting within a small dimension. In response, the part evolves by atomic movements along various paths. Maintaining structural stability is a recurring challenge in electronics industry as the size continues to shrink. To meet reliability requirements, all major industrial laboratories are doing testing on various aspects of the problem. A few research groups have appeared in leading universities worldwide. As we explore behaviors of nanostructures, forces of less familiar origins manifest themselves. They assemble the “self-assembled” structures.
Professor Wei Yang is a leader of this exciting field. In the last few years, he and his collaborators have made seminal contributions. Through thesis of his students and several review articles, Professor Yang has been shaping this young field. In this book, he focuses on two phenomena: ferroelectricity and electromigration. Both phenomena couple mechanical and electrical actions. This book describes technological background, basic physics, experimental findings, and theoretical developments. The reader is brought from basic concepts to up-to-date literature. This book is the first in the emerging field. Not only does it synthesize the studies of the two chosen phenomena, it also provides a perspective on how other phenomena might be approached. The study of evolving small structures will position the solid mechanics discipline at the frontier of major technologies of our time. The field is wide open.
Z. Suo, Princeton, New Jersey, June 2000