The 12 Strangest and Coolest Materials That Actually Exist
Scientists are like modern-day magicians who emerge from their laboratories with tricks that seemingly defy all the laws of physics. "Smart" substances can change their shape according to the influence of external conditions, can change from a gaseous state to a hard metal, or can even freeze at a high temperature.
We at Bright Side picked 12 miracle materials that prove without a shadow of a doubt that the future’s already here.
12. Hydrophobic materials
These are special coverings that protect against water, various other liquids, and dirt. They were created on the basis of nanoparticles of silicon dioxide and titanium. The substances are no longer simply confined to a laboratory — instead they’re already used as hydrophobic sprays and gels for clothes, footwear, tablecloths, building materials, and even to help clean the oceans.
11. The gas which solid objects float on as if it were water
Hexafluoride, or SF6 gas, is five times heavier than air. It doesn’t escape from its container and even holds up light objects as if they were floating on water. Hexafluoride has one other surprising property: it lowers the tone of your voice. One gulp of this stuff and you’ll be talking like Darth Vader.
10. The metal that melts in your hands
We all remember seeing liquid metals in physics class, but one that melts at room temperature is something else entirely. But the surprise doesn’t stop there. In hot water, materials made from gallium melt before your eyes.
If aluminum comes into contact with gallium, it becomes brittle. Despite this issue, gallium alloy is often used in the high technology sector.
9. Exploding powder
Nitrogen triiodide and fulminating silver have yet to find an application in industrial processes. It’s highly dangerous to even transport these substances because they explode when struck, turning into clouds of brightly colored smoke. Sure, it looks impressive — but it’s useless!
8. The metal with a memory
Objects made from nitinol — a titanium and nickel alloy — are capable of "remembering" their original form, returning to it when heated. If only we could do the same!
7. The programmable wood
Who would have thought that among "smart" materials you would be able to find...wood! Specialists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the help of 4D printing (yes, it already exists!), have created wooden laminates that adopt a certain shape when soaked in water.
6. Hot ice
This substance is called sodium acetate, and it turns from a liquid into crystals when the slightest influence is exerted upon it. Outwardly, it can’t be distinguished from ordinary water ice — it even produces similar surface patterns. Yet it’s actually warm. This is the substance that is hidden inside chemical heat pads.
This material has medical applications. Its size changes according to temperature. The effect is enough to make it appear to be alive!
4. Self-repairing materials
These miracle substances that are impossible to harm are already used to make smartphone coverings, building materials, and for medical purposes. Their secret lies in the microcapsules of bacteria contained within them which are activated when damaged, filling cracks in their structure with their own life-sustaining substances. One day, it’s expected that these substances will even be used to make the asphalt on our roads.
3. The super strong material that’s 7.5 times lighter than air
Aerogel is an innovative material developed on the basis of graphene, and it possesses certain unique properties: it’s hard, transparent, flame-resistant, and retains heat extremely well. At the same time, it’s only 1.5 times denser than air and 500 times less dense than water. It’s also one of the most expensive substances in existence: a piece the size of your palm costs around $100.
2. The most active metal on Earth
Cesium is among the most active metals on Earth — only francium is more so, but it’s also radioactive, which cesium is not. Cesium has a very low melting point of 29°C (84°F), and it melts even while you hold a vial with it in your hands. Otherwise, when left alone, the metal hardens, forming very beautiful crystals of pure cesium. It also has lots of applications, one of which is powering atomic clocks — the most precise ones in the world.
1. Magnetic putty
Magnetic putty contains tiny micron-sized micro magnets that get charges when around a magnet. You can see it in a speed-up time-lapse video here. It’s also sold as a toy.
Preview photo credit Joey Shanks / YouTube, PBS Digital Studios
Based on materials from Six "Miracle" Materials That Will Change Their Industries, Top Ten Amazing Materials