In R&D labs around the world, engineers are busy at work mixing metals and fibers, bending physics and stretching possibilities to create the materials of the future.

These tungsten and titanium composites, carbon and glass fibers, ceramics and PCNs are invading the market at an ever-quickening pace across every industry, transforming our basic understanding material functionality and of our engineering limits.

To put this in perspective, Visiongain analysts recently estimated that the composite market is on pace to reach $10.3 billion this year in the aerospace industry alone this year.

The rapid pace of this growth has led some to call this an era of "engineers gone wild."

But to Kennametal Inc. (IW 500/327) CEO, Carlos Cardoso, this renewed focus on innovation signifies something much greater than engineering showmanship.

"I would take a different approach," he said during an interview at IMTS 2012. "What I see is that humans are becoming more sensitive to the environment, more accountable, more responsible. And that is driving this new level of innovation."

Composites for a Better World

To those outside the industry, the relationship between stronger, lighter materials and environmental stewardship may not be clear. But to Cardoso, the two are a perfect match.

"It all begins with efficiency," he explained. "Any kind of engine -- jet engine or combustion engine -- over the last five years, it has become more efficient."

The key to that efficiency gain and the decreased pollution tolls it represents, he said, is really just a matter of designing engines that can run hotter.

"The pollution from older engines comes from unburned fuels in the exhaust," he explained. "So the better the combustion, the less pollution it puts into the air."

Hotter burning engines, of course, require new materials that can withstand the higher temperatures without compromising structural integrity. And that leads to the development of new composites.

"It is just the natural evolution of materials," he said.