Materials have been shaping human history since the dawn of civilisation. But what else is out there, as yet undiscovered?
On this page we look at recent discoveries that are shaping the almost inconceivable technologies of the future.
Liquid nitrogen (LN) is an extremely cold (-196c) colourless, odourless nitrogen gas. It is used for many temperature-releated applications, including freezing foods and cooling down superconductors to minimise friction and allow levitation.
Recently, liquid nitrogen ice cream stands are popping up all over Sydney. LN causes the fat and the water particles of the various ingredients used to make ice cream to stay very small, giving the ice cream its creamy consistency. Watch the video to see how it works.
Bulk Metallic Glasses (amorphous alloys) exhibit extraordinary properties, including exceptionally high strength (three times that of regular metal alloys) and high elastic limits (twice that of regular metals).
They are the toughest of all materials known to date which makes them highly desirable for structural, mechanical and functional applications, such as aeronautical, space and extra-terrestrial vehicles, medical devices and components in hand-held technology.
This video (created by Penn State University with the assistance of Dr R Allen Kimel and the John A Dutton e-Education Institute) shows just how superior bulk metallic glasses are.
Around the world, graphene research has become one of the most vibrant fields of research in materials science, nanotechnology, condensed matter physics and engineering.
Graphene is a one atom thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice.
Since its discovery in 2004, this material has been exploited for various applications and has demonstrated outstanding properties. Electrical current in graphene moves faster than any other known material and it is the best thermal conductor. Moreover, it is the thinnest known material, as well as the strongest and most flexible. Single layer graphene is nearly transparent and gases and liquids cannot permeate through, indicating its great inertness and chemical stability.
Perovskite solar cell promise a cheap, flexible and lightweight alternative to conventional solar panels that can be applied to almost any surface. Imagine the roof of your (electric) car, house windows and phone screen all acting to generalte clean free energy.
Perovskite can be printed just like wallpaper, in continuous rolls of flexible plastic, or as a semi-transparent, power generating glaze. Stacked on top of existing silicon panels, perovskite heralds a quatum leap in solar conversion efficiency.
As the need for alternative eneregies grow, it is clear that pervskite solar cells will become an exciting material that powers our future.
This material has been engineered over millions of years by evolution and has recently been discovered to be the world’s strongest natural material. What is it?
Limpets are sea snails which you find clinging to rocks at the beach. Their teeth are a chitin composite containing reinforcing goethite nanofibres. These nanofibres are critically small making the material insensitive to pre-existing flaws and allowing strengths to reach theoretical values – up to 6.5GPa!
Biomimetic materials inspired by limpet teeth have great future potential in high performance applications – so think twice before you flick one of these suckers into the sea!
Vetigel is a recently developed plant based gel that stops bleeding quicker than any other methods available.
The gel is made from a natural polymer found in algae. The tiny pieces of polymer in the gel reassemble when they come into contact with water. A dense mesh is created that holds the wound together and acts as a scaffold to help the body produce fibrin at the wound’s surface, which promotes tissue recovery.
This material is so effective that it can stop major bleeding in less than 12 seconds and permanently heal wounds.