We've been impressed in the past by aerogel, a lattice-like solid that's almost entirely made of air but can support weight and also has tremendous insulating properties. Then last year an ultralight metal caught our eye, weighing in at 99.99 percent air, which leaves 0.01 percent solid.
Now we are excited to meet aerographite, a sponge grown of carbon nanotubes that's the least dense solid ever: a cubic centimeter of it weighs just two ten-thousandths of a gram.
Your life is full of what NASA calls "spinoffs": ideas or products initially designed for NASA's particular (and particularly challenging) uses, but which trickled down to become commercial products. Of course, you may not recognize these items--there's no "made for NASA" sticker, and many of the iconic NASA products (Tang, Teflon, Velcro) weren't actually designed for or by NASA at all. But NASA-developed stuff is everywhere, from insulation to infant formula, from prostheses to fishing nets. Here are ten of our favorites that originated in the Shuttle program--the very program that just saw its last launch ever.
Click here to see 10 ways Shuttle tech can be found right here on Earth.
Along with causing water droplets to dance (which you can try at home) and protecting hands from liquid nitrogen (which you should definitely not try), the storied Leidenfrost effect can apparently help reduce drag, possibly cutting fuel emissions for cargo ships.
By Katharine Gammon
Posted 05.31.2011 at 6:00 pm 0 Comments
Three low-energy innovations to keep out the heat help scientists ship snowmen to Bahrain, chill beer with nanoparticles, and bring vaccines to developing areas.
Physicists led by Geoff Smith of the University of Technology– Sydney have created a coating that allows heat to escape all the way into space. When an object radiates heat, some of it bounces off nearby molecules in the air, ending up right back on the object itself.
Using no refrigeration, a snowman made in Japan traveled 5,314 miles to the desert of Bahrain, surviving the journey in one piece. The feat was a nice test of Panasonic’s new vacuum insulation panels, called U-Vacua, and a clever stunt that produced squeals of joy from a bunch of Bahraini kids.
Over 70 years ago, scientists invented aerogel, the least dense solid known to man, and an insulator four times more efficient than fiberglass or foam. Famously, according to Dr. Peter Tsou of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "you could take a two- or three-bedroom house, insulate it with aerogel, and you could heat the house with a candle. But eventually the house would become too hot."
Vacuum's emptiness doesn't just pose a problem for space travelers -- a vacuum lining is also one of the best known insulators on Earth, and may help keep those holiday drinks and soups warm in your thermos. Now scientists have found that layering photonic crystals within the vacuum lining can even prevent heat loss from invisible infrared radiation.
Why bother with an unsightly and inefficient flat tar roof when you can look out the window at a teeming green garden? That's why I'm turning part of my roof green. I'll post more detail about what I'm growing and the DIY tray-based system I'm growing plants in, but before any of that can happen, the roof itself needs to be prepared to hold several inches of dirt without collapsing or flooding my upstairs. For that, I went with a multi-layer system: insulation, rigid roof board and a thermoplastic barrier.
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.