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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Future Super Materials in Aeronautics - 1

This and the following posts will highlight some of the coolest materials that may be seen in aviation in the next few years.

Aerogel
 
Aerogel is a extremely good insulator and has the nickname 'solid smoke' because of it looks like exactly that. It is such a good heat insulator that if you held a thin  sheet of it over the flame of a Bunsen Burner, you would not feel anything. Also, with enough of this material, one could build a house in the most uninhabitable places imaginable. With a house made of aerogel, a person could theoretically live in space without any heating, because the aerogel will keep all the heat in, despite the temperature difference. An inch of aerogel could have an internal structure so complex that an inch long piece could have a surface area as long as football field. Because of its amazing properties, aerogel could potentially be used as a material in aerospace engineering, which is also why it has over 15 mentions in the Guinness Book of World Records. The picture on the left shows a flower kept on a piece of aerogel. it is not catching fire because of the aerogel's insulating properties.
 
Carbon nanotubes 

Carbon nanotubes are the next great super material. They are extremely strong tubes of rolled carbon which are 300 times stronger than steel. They consist of a single sheet of graphite, also known as graphene which is rolled over to form tube. Graphene itself may also be a revolutionizing factor in the aerospace industry, allowing for much faster transmissions of electric signals. Carbon nanotubes are extremely, extremely strong and could make the construction of many hypothetical structures possible. They are actually already used for small things such as very expensive and strong sports goods and cycles.
 
One such structure is the space elevator, a tower which is so tall that it reaches all the way into space, about 35000 kilometres right up. This tower cannot be constructed by anything other carbon nanotubes. It would reduce the cost of sending things into space by a huge percentage. It could also revolutionize the aviation industry, allowing for far stronger fuselages and wings. The picture above shows the structure of a carbon nanotube.
 
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