Diamonds are the hardest solid materials we know, and the ghostly space-age materials known as aerogels are the least dense. Looking for a challenge, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory decided to combine these substances and turn out a spongy, translucent version of a girl’s best friend.
Cellulose isn’t new – it’s been around as long as woody plants have – and aerogels aren’t either. But when researchers recently combined the two, they created something wholly new: a flexible, lightweight, super-absorbent sponge that can also be crushed down into a flat piece of magnetic “nanopaper” capable of supporting 400,000 pounds per square inch.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.