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Reading Selection, Lesson 10

The Right Material

Matter is used to make things. The term “technology” refers to the way people alter and shape matter so that it can be used to make things. For example, gold can be found as metal nuggets. But through technology (for example, the lost wax method), it can be fashioned into jewelry. Through different technology, it can be used to plate electronic components inside a computer.

A compact disk.
What properties made aluminum and transparent plastic ideal materials for the manufacture of this disk?

Part of making any useful object is choosing the right kind of material for it. Materials can be any type of matter, from the metal in a bicycle frame to the compressed air in a bicycle tire. Some materials are used directly from nature (for example, wood and stone). These are called raw materials. Other materials are made from raw materials that are refined or processed in some way. For example, one of the raw materials used to make glass is sand.

Think about some everyday manufactured objects. Some are very complex. For example, a car contains thousands of different parts and is made from hundreds of different types of matter. Each material used to build the car is chosen for the job it must do. That job is its function. How is this choice made? It is based on several factors, including cost, availability, and, most important, the properties of the material.

Scientists and engineers are often on the lookout for better, cheaper, or more readily available materials to replace the traditional materials used in objects. They try to find or design materials that have the right properties. For example, most shoes were once made entirely from pieces of leather that were sewn or nailed together. Nowadays, many shoes are made from a variety of materials, each suited or designed to fit the function of that part of the shoe. Soles may consist of a combination of durable, shock-absorbing rubbers or plastics. Uppers are often made of waterproof, breathable synthetic fabrics or stain-resistant plastics with soft linings that cushion the foot and protect from abrasion.

During the Anchor Activity, you will learn more about the materials that make up an object. You will study the relationship between object function, the choice of materials to make the object, and the properties and origins of the materials.


1. What factors do scientists and engineers have to consider when looking for appropriate materials?

2. Suppose you were given the task of designing a new backpack. List several factors that might influence your choice of materials.


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