Materials of the Universe

The Big Idea

Materials of the Universe (MotU) unites cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy, planetary science and exploration, mineralogy and petrology, with materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology to address grand questions of the complex chemistries and evolution of planets.

Stars produce the elements that form all materials. Planets, moons, and every object in the universe form through physical and chemical processing of this suite of elements, which makes the knowledge of materials essential to understand the universe. The diversity of planetary bodies in our solar system and the ubiquity of exoplanets now liberate us from narrow thinking focused only on Earth materials. We need to understand their formation, stability, catalytic activity, and rheology over a range of temperature, pressure, and compositions not yet imagined. Creating new materials, often far from equilibrium, with compositions unknown on Earth but possible elsewhere, requires fundamental understanding of structure, bonding, and function. Such new materials, in turn, may aid space exploration by providing better sensors and detectors, as well as stronger, lighter, and more robust materials for aerospace applications. Materials research under extreme conditions will enable us to design new systems for space exploration, travel, and settlement.

MotU, as a unifying discipline, will attract and inspire scientists across all STEM fields as it synergistically applies materials research methods, and explores alien and extreme conditions and environments with the expectation of discovering new, useful materials and understanding the formation and evolution of planets

In the News

Sci-fi evolves into technology with new ASU Center for Materials of the Universe

National Academy of Sciences member Alexandra Navrotsky will return to ASU to head the new one-of-a-kind Center for Materials of the Universe.

The Center for Materials of the Universe at ASU will bring together scientists and engineers to form cross-disciplinary research teams to expedite humanity’s next steps in the universe.

Workshop for the Materials of the Universe

The Materials of the Universe (MotU) workshop brought together 55 experts from astrophysics, planetary science, physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and engineering  in Tempe, Arizona from 24-26 April 2019.  The aim was to define grand questions and challenges in the combined fields of materials research and planetary science for the coming decade.

Interstellar iron isn't missing, it's just hiding in plain sight

A team of cosmochemists at Arizona State University, with support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, now claims that the mystery is simpler than it seems. The iron isn't really missing, they say. Instead it's hiding in plain sight. The iron has combined with carbon molecules to form molecular chains called iron pseudocarbynes. The spectra of these chains are identical with the much more common chains of carbon molecules, long known to be abundant in interstellar space.

Upcoming Event



Development of new high temperature materials for aeronautic, aerospace and energy conversion applications requires data on structure and thermodynamics of oxides at high temperature. Most carbides, nitrides, borides and metals will form oxides on exposure to air and water vapor at high temperature.

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Alex Navrotsky

Space Exploration

Dan Shim

Hilairy Hartnett

Everett Shock

Steven Desch

Patrick Young

James Tyburczy

Evgenya Shkolnik

Richard Hervig

Thomas Sharp

Molecular & Materials Science, Engineering

William Petuskey

Don Seo

Andrew Chizmeshya

Ian Gould

Scott Sayres

Arunima Singh

Michael Treacy

Antia Sanchez Botana

Qing Hua Wang