Amazing Materials
Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

Materials have evolved as living beings did. The enhancement due to an improved understanding of their properties has a key role in the development of amazing materials with amazing properties.

Here, we have listed 10 amazing materials which have amazing properties to shock you.

10 Amazing Materials That You Would Not Believe to Exist

1. Self-healing Materials

Polymeric materials has been an integral part of our lifestyle. Use of polymeric material has made life easy due to their lightweight, durability, strength and cheap cost. But, these materials get fatigued after long term use. Due to continuous strain, there is a chance that they get fractured and they become unusable.

Self healing materials
Self-healing polymeric materials Y. Yang and M. W. Urban

Meanwhile biological materials like bones, skin, etc. heal themselves when they suffer a fracture. New polymeric materials, called self-healing materials can mimic such character of bio-materials. When acted upon a stress which could create a crack in materials, which would readily be healed by self-healing mechanism, just like your skin heals when you have a cut.

This could aid space technology a lot since it is difficult to repair rovers if they take some damage. These materials are under research and soon to come in the market.

2. Flexible Solar Cells – Jackets and shirts that generate electricity

Solar cells have progressed in recent years and their efficiency is increasing. But their efficiency is not the only topic under research, but its versatility is also being scrutinized. The flexibility of solar cells would make them able to be worn by embedding in T-shirts and other wears. Also, we could put them wherever we like.

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Flexible solar cells are research-level technology and are soon to hit the market. By employing graphene,  an amazing material with amazing properties and other organic materials, many researchers have already developed such solar cells. However, their longevity and efficiency is still a problem and is on the verge of being solved by the addition of the regular solar cell material, silicon.

3. Transparent and Flexible Conductors

Conductors and semiconductors are the major building block of electronics, they are the heart and soul of a device. They are the only reason why our electronic device cannot be transparent. Many rumours relating to transparent phones have infused social media but guess what? It can be true.

There are semiconductors and conductors which can have an amazing transparency along with their conductivity. Fluorine doped tin oxide, Indium tin oxide, Graphene, titanium dioxide, etc. are to name some. These materials can make our dream of carrying transparent phones true. Not just phones but all the electronic appliances can be made using such transparent materials.

4. Strongest Fibres – Uncuttable Threads

One of the most notable advancement in 20th-century material science is invention of Kevlar. It is so strong that not even a bullet can pass through it. So, it is used to make military armour. Not just bullet but this amazing material cannot be cut if winded properly.

But it is not the strongest. Other amazing materials like Dyneema and spectre, which are brand names for the strongest polymer fibres. They are slightly stronger than kevlar and can be used for various purpose like making ropes for parachute, fishing rods, etc. You cannot simply cut these fibres by using a knife.

5. Aerogels – Gaseous objects

Block of Aerogel – NASA/JPL – Caltech

Have you ever heard of aerogels? They are porous solid materials having air pockets to contain air. The air pockets contribute to 99.8% of the total volume. So, it is as light as gas, one of lightest solid material and also it can be super strong. Also, it can be even more thermally insulating than gas itself by Knudsen effect.

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Aerogels is mostly used in heat insulation due to its low thermal conductivity, it is even used in blankets. Also, it is used infiltration due to its porosity. NASA uses aerogels to capture star-dusts in space ships and for thermal insulation. These amazing materials are likely to be improved more by using polymers.

6. Piezoelectric materials – Electricity generating pavements and shoes

Piezoelectric device are those devices which generate electricity when acted upon by pressure. These devices can be fitted in the areas where you continuously apply pressure, like your shoes or pavements. You can walk and generate electricity, how cool is that? Your mobile phone lacks battery and you suddenly start jogging to charge your phone. Isn’t it amazing?

These amazing materials have been used from the late nineteenth century but their use had been limited to produce sparks in lighters, touch sensors and spark plugs due to low efficiency. With the development of nanotechnology, there has been significant improvement in these material’s efficiency. Now, these materials can be used to generate electricity from pavements or any pathways where people walk or vehicles move often and even on shoes.

7. Synthetic Meat

Do you love meat and also love animals? Have you ever thought of enjoying meat without hurting animals? If so your wish might be fulfilled within some years. Synthetic meat or cultured meat or artificial meat can be cultured by tissue engineering. These are lab-grown animal muscular tissue can be just like real meat.

Meat has a large market, nearly $1.4 trillion. So, several startups have already started producing such meat. They are supported by various organizations but now the price of such meat is too expensive. This is the reason why it is facing difficulties in entering the market. Soon, it will overcome the hurdle posed by price and would re-establish the whole market of meat and reduce the slaughtering of animals for food.

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9. Shape Memory Alloy – Metal with Memory

An alloy is a homogeneous mixture of different metals. Some of these alloys like Copper-Aluminum-Nickel, Nickel-Titanium (Nitinol), Iron-Manganese-Silicon, etc. have a property of regain its original shape when heated. This effect is called shape memory effect and the alloys with this property can regain their original shape when heated.

These amazing materials can regain their shape because when temperature increases, the phase transition acts against deformation. Now, these materials are commercially available and can be used in various sectors where shape variations according to temperature is advantageous. It has diverse fields of applications like in robotics, dentistry, piping, aircraft, etc.

10. Programmable Materials – Self Assembly Materials

How cool it would be if your shoes would have pores during hot weather and all those pores could be closed when it’s cold? These type of materials exist and are called active materials or programmable materials. It can be textile or wood or metal. These materials can respond to environmental change without any robotic mechanism like the plant Mimosa pudica (touch me not).

Scientists at self-assembly lab,  MIT are developing such amazing materials which could revolutionize our clothes, shoes, bags, furniture, etc. Also, various research are being carried out by other organizations. These materials can bring our fantasies to life. Imagine a cloth which changes pattern with response to the surrounding temperature, you won’t need to change cloth but variation may come into it with any activating environmental change. Within some years these materials will come out in the market, don’t be amazed.

Magic is not the only wonder, science is too. Science can do magical stuffs and these materials proves it. Hail Science!


Author

Ashwin Khadka is a Physics graduate from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer. Apart from writing he is performing research on solar cells at Material Science Laboratory of Kathmandu University.

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