Strangest and Coolest Materials That Actually Exist

Chetan Yadav

Staff member
Sep 7, 2017
226
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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, changing from a gaseous state to a hard metal or even freezing at a high temperature.

Miracle materials that prove without a shadow of a doubt that the future’s already here.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Hydrogel



This material has medical applications. Its size changes according to temperature. The effect is enough to make it appear to be alive!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Graphene



In simple terms, graphene is a thin layer of pure carbon that has the potential to change electronic engineering as we know it. Graphene conducts electricity better than copper. It is 200 times stronger than steel but 6 times lighter. It is almost perfectly transparent since it only absorbs 2% of light. That is truly a material of the future!

Plutonium



Plutonium is among the most dangerous substances in the whole world. It’s so radioactive that even being near it without protection can be hazardous, if not lethal. In fact, this metal is so full of radiation that in sci-fi movies they make it radiant green — although it’s not green or shiny at all.