Crazy New Man-Made Materials That Will Shape the Future
2013-09-13 0:00

By Jamie Condliffe | Gizmodo

Forget Mother Nature: when it comes to all matters matter, the sheer ingenuity of the human mind can give rise to some of the most insane—and useful—new materials you’ve ever encountered. Here are five crazy new man-made materials whose uses could be practically limitless.


Titanium Foam
Forget expanded polystyrene and spongey elastomers: the foam you want to get your hands on is made out of titanium. By saturating a humble polyurethane foam with a solution of titanium powder and binding agents, it’s possible to force the metal to cling to the shape of the simple foam and then vaporise the underlying structure away. The result is a titanium lattice in the shape of the original foam, which can be heat-treated to tweak its material properties.

The exact properties depend on the porosity of the foam, but the results are strong and—most importantly—incredibly light. In fact, the material is just perfect for replacing bone: it has incredibly similar mechanical properties and, because it’s porous, new bone can grow and around its structure, truly integrating the implant within the skeleton. Anything that gets us that much closer to a real-life Wolverine is okay in our book.

Graphene Aerogel

If the phrase graphene aerogel sounds to you like someone combined the two buzziest of materials buzzwords then... you wouldn’t be far wrong. In fact, this graphene aerogel snatched the title of the world’s lightest material just a few of months ago—with a density lower than that of helium and just twice that of hydrogen at 0.16 mg/cm3. This stuff practically floats.

The material was actually created using a new technique which involves freeze-drying solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene to create a kind of carbon sponge. The resulting material is both strong and elastic, as well as incredibly light; it can even absorb up to 900 times its own weight in oil. When—or if—it becomes affordable, that means it could be used to mop up massive oil spills with ease, or even as an incredibly efficient version of humble old insulation.


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