MRS Bulletin

Technical Feature

Technical Feature

Three-Dimensional Materials Science: An Intersection of Three-Dimensional Reconstructions and Simulations

Katsuyo Thornton and Henning Friis Poulsen


The recent development of experimental techniques that rapidly reconstruct the three-dimensional microstructures of solids has given rise to new possibilities for developing a deeper understanding of the evolution of microstructures and the effects of microstructures on materials properties. Combined with three-dimensional (3D) simulations and analyses that are capable of handling the complexity of these microstructures, 3D reconstruction, or tomography, has become a powerful tool that provides clear insights into materials processing and properties. This introductory article provides an overview of this emerging field of materials science, as well as brief descriptions of selected methods and their applicability.

Katsuyo Thornton can be reached at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Michigan, 2300 Hayward St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA; tel. 734–615–1498; fax 734–763–4788; e-mail

Thornton, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, is an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She received her PhD degree from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago in 1997. Afterward, Thornton was a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, and a visiting lecturer and scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in materials science and engineering. She then spent three years as a research assistant professor in materials science and engineering at Northwestern. Thornton's research focuses on computational studies of the evolution of microstructures and their effects on a wide range of materials including metals, semiconductors, ceramics, and biomaterials. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the TMS Early Career Faculty Fellow Award and the Carl Sagan Excellence in Teaching Award.

Henning Friis Poulsen can be reached at Materials Research Department, Risø DTU, Dk-4000 Roskilde, Denmark; tel. 45–4677–5739; fax 45–4677–5758; e-mail

Poulsen, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, is a research professor in the Materials Research Department at Risø DTU, the Technical University of Denmark. Poulsen earned his PhD degree in physics from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1991. Before joining Risø, he spent three years as a postdoctoral researcher at the HASYLAB synchrotron facility in Hamburg, Germany. At Risø, Poulsen heads the Centre for Fundamental Research: Metal Structures in Four Dimensions. His research interests are in the development of diffraction and imaging techniques based on high-energy x-rays, and their application to materials science and engineering including plastic deformation and nucleation and growth phenomena. Poulsen has authored or co-authored more than 150 articles.