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Supermaterials: A Future of Cool Stuff

March 14, 2015       Curious Mind
A Future of Cool Stuff

The Fortress of Solitude as depicted in a poster for DCU Online, the
legendary home of comic book superhero Kal-El aka Superman. 
As materials science advances, we may soon see everything built
as amazing as the comics and movies show us...

Image is All Rights Reserved to DC Comics.

Quick.  What is the most amazing structure you've ever seen in the movies?

The Fortress of Solitude or Superman's home!  Made of Kryptonian living crystal that can self -regenerate to repair itself, can hold data as complex as memories and video even, and be invisible to detection by human tech.  Science has progressed to the level that even Kryptonian comic book movie technology might be possible in the next decade or two! 

Here is a look at where we are now...

From roads that fix their own cracks, to a raincloak that makes you almost as invisible as the reptilian hunter-alien, Predator from THAT movie: supermaterials out of the lab are soon going to change how our world is put together.

In the past we've seen how new materials from plastic to Teflon, from Kevlar to other carbon-composites become incorporated into almost everything we use in out lives from water and food containers, to non-stick cookware, superconductive materials for magnetic lev trains, and military use for bulletproof armor and aircraft and supercar housings.

Several supermaterials are already close to becoming a new part of our everyday lives as soon as materials scientists figure out how to manufacture them cheaper and find better ways of producing them as part of the things we use in our everyday lives.  Soon we'll have cities just like Kal-El's!  On other planets even.


Graphene is a very tough and conductive substance made out of a configuration of one-atom carbons that can revolutionize electronics by allowing for miniaturization up to the nano-level. 

An electronic screen made of flexible plastic like material
infused with graphene.

Graphene also has applications as composite-plastic components for almost any design you can thing of--from electronics housing to supercar housing and even prosthetic limbs.  Graphene can potentially be used as organic material to connect with neurons in the brain: a possible treatment for spinal injuries.

Researchers at MIT have developed a graphene filter with micro-pores that can keep salt molecules out and make saltwater drinkable.

Graphene products already have a $9 million market, as of 2014, and most of the stuff made with this material include semiconductors, electronics, battery energy and composites industries.

Self-healing Materials — BioRegenerating Plastics

Soon even shattered screens on mobile devices can heal
themselves like new once the technology advances for
self-regenerating materials, starting with plastic and
other building and manufacturing materials.

Scott White at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champlain is testing bio-regenerating plastics that can self-heal. Last year, White put together a new polymer that oozes to repair a visible hole the way organic tissue heals itself.  The substance has a vascular system of liquids that when broken and mix with each other, clot solid like blood.  Already capable of healing microscopic cracks, the new polymer was able to self-repair a hole 4 millimeter wide with plenty of cracks around it.  A great breakthrough for plastic materials.  Future possibilities with this technology involve concrete, asphalt, and metal that can heal themselves.

Superlight and Strong Aerogels

Aerogels look like a soap bar made of tight soap bubbles but this material can easily take the heat of a blowtorch without burning and carry the weight of a car. The material is a gel where where the liquid has been replaced entirely by air.  Also called "frozen smoke" or "blue smoke" because of the way it looks. The actual composition of aerogels may include silica, metal oxides, and even graphene. 

Aerogel material are storng, extremely light, and can insulate against
extreme temperatures.  They are used as insulation for space
bound vehicles.

NASA scientists are testing flexible aerogels made of polymers to use as insulators for spacecraft burning through the atmosphere instead of cork tiles.  Aerogel's lightness, strength, and insulating qualities make it the perfect material for aerospace vehicles.

Cloaking SuperMaterials

Metamaterials are designed to bend and diffuse light in specific ways so that an object can actually be cloaked or be invisible to the naked eye as long as it is covered in the supermaterial.  One day, cloaking technology—like body armor, and other military or law enforcement tech might be the first to benefit from its use.  Remember the active cloaking used by the Predator alien in those action movies or Harry Potter's invisibility cloak?  You might see that soon in the military arsenal or in other practical uses like homes in homesteads for privacy.

An TACCutexas experiment shows how to cloak an object with
metamaterials that bend light.  There are many more methods for
visually cloaking objects, metamaterials offer good promise for
future use.
All Rights Reserved You Tube and TACCutexas

Metamaterials can redirect visible light to avoid visual detection, but some special composites can even scatter microwaves, RF waves, and infrared light on the electromagnetic spectrum.  The entire electromagnetic spectrum can be affected by metamaterials to create a visual and electronic distortion for truly undetectable everything in the future.


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