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A car interior is made from a variety of materials.A car interior is made from a variety of materials. A material is anything made of matter, which includes everything we can see, from the air to our own skin. But often when we use the word “materials” we mean materials that are used in manufacturing: anything needed to make a useful item, such as crockery, a toy or a spacecraft. Natural materials are from animal, plant, inorganic or fossil fuel sources. Manmade materials, such as plastics, synthetic textiles and composites, are produced from natural materials using a variety of processes, such as mixing and heating.

The tanneries in Fes, MoroccoThe tanneries in Fes, Morocco

Animal materials

Animal materials, such as wool, hair, silk, feathers and leather, are widely used for producing clothing and other textiles. Products made from materials such as ivory, tortoiseshell, horn and fur used to be common, but today concerns about animal welfare and endangered species have reduced their use.

A range of household items, such as soaps, cosmetics and perfumes (using materials such as mink oil, or lanolin from wool), paint (sometimes using casein, obtained from milk), polishes (beeswax) and inks and colourants (using, for example, red dye from cochineal bugs), are made from animal products.

The earliest known products made from glass are beads. They date from 4500 years ago and were found in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and Syria).

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