May 04, 2017 01:36 PM EDT
Aerogels are mainly produced by the all over replacement of liquid with the gaseous state in a silica, metal oxide or polymer gel. Although being in a form of nanoporous structures, the polymeric aerogels hold some of the most intriguing characteristics of materials like flexibility and mechanical strengths. Thus, these are often used in the insulation process of oil pipelines to Nasa's space activities. But it holds a very rare possibility to improve a substance considered the final frontier in lightweight material. Perhaps, this thought has been revised by a group of chemists.
According to Phys, the team, which belongs from Missouri University of Science and Technology, have turned the aerogels into an innovative form which showcases rubber-like elasticity and can also "remember" their original shapes. Dr. Nicholas Leventis, lead researcher on the project and Curators' Distinguished Professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T said: "The specific kind of polyurethane aerogels we have created are superelastic, meaning that they can be bent in any direction or be smashed flat and still return to their original shape."
He hinted that the superelastic aerogel, though having similar characteristics, is much different from rubber and can return to a specific form. Although it comes with strong shape memory effects. Which means these can be cooled & deformed into certain states. Moreover, it can be kept to the deformed state forever, according to AZO Materials. Leventis stated: "However when the temperature rises back to room temperature, they recover their original un-deformed shape."
The team also demonstrated the aerogel's unique characteristic by transforming a "bionic hand" into an aerogelic hand. The transformed hand also boasted the capability to clasp a pencil. Leventis later claimed that this innovation has brought "holy grails' in the field of aerogels, as he expects this may change the concept of such materials.
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