APS News

March 2019 (Volume 28, Number 3)

Embracing All Aspects of Materials Research

By Chris Leighton and Athanasios Chantis

PRM logo banner

The field of materials science is inextricably intertwined with numerous fields of physics. It is thus unsurprising that materials-related research has traditionally featured prominently in several Physical Review journals, including Physical Review Letters, Physical Review B, Physical Review E, Physical Review X, Physical Review Applied, and Reviews of Modern Physics. Historically, however, the Physical Review never featured a journal with an explicit focus on materials research. This changed on April 4, 2017, when Physical Review Materials, the youngest member of the Physical Review family, was launched.

The original goal of Physical Review Materials, which was created in response to substantial analysis and information gathering by APS, was to fully embrace all aspects of materials research, across many disciplines. The latter include not only physics, but also materials science, and many fields of chemistry and engineering (electrical, chemical, mechanical, etc.), reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the field. Inclusiveness, broadening of the footprint of the Physical Review, and expansion to non-traditional areas were thus anticipated (and welcomed) goals of the journal. The intention was to publish high quality, original experimental and theoretical research, covering all aspects of the prediction, synthesis, processing, structure, properties, and performance of materials. A journal complementing Physical Review B, Physical Review E, and Physical Review Applied was thus envisioned, publishing Regular Articles, Rapid Communications, and Reviews, based on a fair and expedient review process.

The response of the international materials research community to the launch of Physical Review Materials has been highly encouraging. The volume and quality of manuscript submissions has been such that the journal published its 1000th paper by November 2018, only 17 months since the first issue. More important is the depth, breadth, and significance of these papers, which encompass: synthesis and processing; structure and mechanical properties; experimental and theoretical methods; 2D materials; topological materials; ferroic materials; semiconductors; superconductors; metamaterials and optical materials; materials for energy; soft and amorphous materials; materials for catalysis and electrochemistry; and nanomaterials. Several areas have emerged as particular strengths of Physical Review Materials, including mechanical properties, interfaces and surfaces, ferroic materials, 2D materials, materials for energy harvesting and storage, first-principles-based calculation and prediction, machine learning, and functional materials such as oxides. The fraction of manuscripts combining experiment and theory has also been notably large, accurately reflecting a characteristic of the field. Overlap with journals such as Physical Review B, Physical Review Applied, and Physical Review E, has of course arisen, but the journal has rapidly developed a unique character and scope, shaped by both authors and referees. Efficient collaboration among these journals has in fact emerged as an important by-product, strengthening the Physical Review at the same time as broadening its scope and impact.

Journal operations have of course grown to keep pace with the above, including not only journal staff but also our outstanding Editorial Board. This board now comprises 28 preeminent scientists from the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia, representing universities, national laboratories, user facilities, and research institutes. The group is diverse in every respect, and their service to the journal has played a significant role, along with our many dedicated referees, in enabling us to achieve the goal of offering a particularly rapid and fair review process. Significantly, a new article type has also recently been added to the journal: Research Updates. These are focused, concise reviews of emerging areas of materials research, designed to provide an early and valuable resource to readers studying or entering new fields. The first three such articles have now been published, on the topics of machine learning in materials research [1], the properties of a pivotal Dirac material (Cd3As2) [2], and the emergence of a promising new material in semiconductor research and applications (ScN) [3]. Further Research Updates are anticipated due to what is already a positive response from authors, referees, and readers. This response mirrors general feedback from the community regarding the scope, aims, and published papers in Physical Review Materials. Our Editors work hard to interact with and listen to community members, particularly at conferences and meetings, and we warmly welcome further feedback.

Looking forward, our goals are to build on the strong response of the materials community, and the steady stream of manuscripts it has generated, to broaden and deepen the international impact of the journal. Further expansion and community engagement in fields such as soft matter, polymers, self-assembly, processing, solid-state and materials chemistry, and materials for catalysis and electrochemistry is planned, among other initiatives, along with consolidation of our footprint in existing areas of strength. The journal will enter a new phase of its life in 2019 with the publication of some key metrics, which we anticipate will help further solidify the journal’s standing. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors, referees, APS staff, and supporters who have helped start Physical Review Materials on its path. We look forward to further establishing the journal as a preeminent choice for high quality, significant, and impactful materials research.


1. J.E. Gubernatis and T. Lookman, “Machine learning in materials design and discovery: Examples from the present and suggestions for the future”, Phys. Rev. Materials 2, 120301 (2018).

2. I Crassee, R. Sankar, W.-L. Lee, A. Akrap and M. Orlita, “3D dirac semimetal Cd3As2: A review of materials properties”, Phys. Rev. Materials 2, 120302 (2018).

3. B. Biswas and B. Saha, “Development of semiconducting ScN”, Phys. Rev. Materials 3, 020301 (2019).

Chris Leighton is Lead Editor of Physical Review Materials and Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota. Athanasios Chantis is Managing Editor of Physical Review Materials.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

March 2019 (Volume 28, Number 3)

APS News Home

Issue Table of Contents

APS News Archives

Contact APS News Editor

Articles in this Issue
New Journal Launch: Physical Review Research
2019 APS President David Gross
APS Strategic Plan: Process and Results
APS April Meeting Preview
Embracing All Aspects of Materials Research
2019 APS Medal Ceremony and Leadership Convocation
The APS Innovation Fund
CUWiP Grows for Eight Years in a Row
Congressional Visit Day Primer
This Month in Physics History
APS Office of Government Affairs
FYI: Science Policy News from AIP
International News
The Back Page