Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New lightweight materials may yield safer buildings, longer-lasting tires


Researchers say they have developed the world’s strongest, lightest solids. Called aerogels, the sturdy materials are a high-tech amalgam of highly porous glass and plastic that is as light as air.

#In light of the events of Sept. 11 and a heightened interest in homeland security, these new materials show promise as lightweight body armor for soldiers, shielding for armored vehicles, and stronger building materials, the researchers say.

The materials could also be used for better window insulation, longer-lasting tires, and lighter, safer aircraft and space vehicles, they say.

A study describing these materials is scheduled to appear in the September 12 print issue of Nano Letters, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

"We took the lightest material available and made it 100 times stronger, giving us the strongest, lightest material known to man," says Nicholas Leventis, Ph.D., a chemist with the University of Missouri-Rolla and a chief author of the paper. "Our material appears promising for practically any application that requires lightweight, strong materials."

Aerogels were originally developed in the 1930s. They remained a curiosity until the 1960s, when scientists began to consider them as a medium for storing liquid rocket fuel. The first aerogels were made of silica and had a chemical composition identical to glass. Although lightweight, aerogels have, until now, been extremely brittle and have absorbed moisture easily, which limited their practical applications.

In an effort to improve upon the strength of these materials, Leventis and his associates decided to weave together strings of tiny particles of silica (glass) with polyurethane (a plastic. The resulting material, however, still remained too brittle.

The researchers then decided to cross-link (tie together chemically) the strings of the nano-sized glass particles with polyisocyanate, one of the two components of polyurethane. Like earlier aerogels, the resulting materials were almost as light as air. But the new chemical approach resulted in aerogels that were 100 times more resistant to breakage, and almost totally insensitive to moisture compared with the original version of aerogels made of plain silica.

Aerogels are also known for their high resistance to heat transfer, making them promising as insulating materials. In the near future, the new aerogel nanocomposites will probably appear in insulated windows, refrigerators and thermoses, Leventis predicts.

Other possibilities include more impact-resistant automobile bumpers and stronger, lighter armored vests. The new material can also store liquid fuel, making it useful for safer, more impact-resistant fuel tanks for aircraft and fuel transport vehicles. It can also be used for building lighter, more efficient frames for airplanes and spacecraft, according to the researchers.

The researchers have recently filed patents on their new aerogel technology. Leventis and his associates plan to make aerogels even stronger in the near future.

A few companies are developing aerogels commercially. Despite their fragility, some plain-silica aerogels are already in use on spacecraft to collect cosmic dust for analysis. They are also part of the instrumentation that measures radiation produced within nuclear reactors.

Beverly Hassell | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Researchers demonstrate existence of new form of electronic matter
15.03.2018 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Boron can form a purely honeycomb, graphene-like 2-D structure
15.03.2018 | Science China Press

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>