Pound of aerogel can ferry half tonne boatloads

Pound of aerogel can ferry half tonne boatloads Img/2012/3/26/boat-small.jpgHelsinki: A pound of aerogel, an amazing, ultra lightweight material, is enough to build a boat capable of carrying half tonne loads, says a study.Aerogel, a buoyant material, is among the lightest solid substances on earth. Composed of tiny nano-fibrils, it is derived from plant cellulose and mimics the water strider, an insect which can walk on water on long, thin feet.

Olli Ikkala, from the Helsinki University of Technology, Espoo, Finland, said aerogels are so light that some of them are denoted as "solid smoke." They also have remarkable mechanical properties and are flexible.

"These materials have really spectacular properties that could be used in practical ways," said Ikkala, according to a university statement.
It can create applications for cleaning up oil spills, helping create sensors to detect environmental pollution, miniaturized military bots, and even children`s toys and super-buoyant beach floats.

Ikkala pointed out that cellulose is the most abundant polymer on Earth, a renewable and sustainable raw material that could be used in many new ways.

"It can be of great potential value in helping the world shift to materials that do not require petroleum for manufacture," Ikkala explained.

"The use of wood-based cellulose does not influence the food supply or prices, like corn or other crops. We are really delighted to see how cellulose is moving beyond traditional applications, such as paper and textiles, and finding new high-tech application," said Ikkala.

These findings were presented at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.