Aluminum started as one of the world’s most expensive materials because it was difficult to refine—even though it made up 8 percent of the world’s crust. But eventually aluminum became one of the cheapest materials after methods of mass producing it were invented in the 1880s. It went from $1200 per kilogram down to a…
We already know that spider silk is something of a wonder material, but scientists are still discovering more awesome things that it can do. An international team of researchers has found that spider silk shares a useful property with semiconductors—except rather than exploiting this to manipulate electrons, it can be…
Rock and mountain climbers rely on strong, yet elastic ropes to keep them safe should they happen to fall. Now mathematicians at the University of Utah have come up with an equation to design an ideal climbing rope—one that would be safer and more durable. They described this perfect rope, and a promising class of…
Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” seems to have a special appeal for scientists, who have recreated it using bacteria, among other media, in the past. Now scientists at Caltech have made their own tiny version of the painting—a dime’s width across—out of folded DNA molecules. Some day the same technique could be used…
It’s so interesting to watch the magic material that is graphene get made, because you can’t really see a damn thing. It’s totally transparent and only one atom thick, so it’s basically creating invisibility with the help of other materials.
We’ve all noticed how those last few Cheerios in the cereal bowl seem to cluster together in the center and along the edges. It’s called the “Cheerios effect.” Now an international team of physicists has discovered a reverse Cheerios effect. They described their results in a new paper in the Proceedings of the…
A lot of fresh fruit and vegetables spoil between the farm and your mouth. But a team of Tufts University researchers has developed a silk coating that could help keep fruit from turning without the need for refrigeration.
Welcome to the Wikkelhouse, a building that’s made not from concrete, brick or wood—but cardboard.
You can thank the guys toiling in this pictures for the fact that you don’t have to change your tires very often: They’re mining sulfur, which is mainly used to vulcanize rubber and make it more durable.
It’s tough. It’s thick. It’s brown. It’s a lot like leather—but in fact this new material is made in the lab using leftovers from a brew of kombucha tea.
Water’s just plain old water, right? Not when you trap it inside a tiny channel, it seems, because then it behaves like no other solid, liquid or gas.
As a civilization we are blanketing our planet with plastic. One of the most frightening illustrations of this fact is a prediction that by 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish. Amazingly, a smart solution for reducing our reliance on plastic, and protecting marine life, could come from those very…
Several years ago, scientists calculated the properties of an exotic form of carbon—called Carbyne—and found that it promised more strength and stiffness than any other known material. Now, it’s finally been made in a stable form inside an Austrian lab.
Your shirts may yet be spared your clumsy eating. A team of scientists has created a new kind of super slippery coating called X-SLIPS that can shed all kinds of water- and oil-based products—like ketchup and mustard!
Fancy treating yourself? The world’s largest ever blue diamond is going up for auction on May 18th at Christie’s in Geneva. But you better have a healthy bank balance: It’s expected to sell for somewhere in the region of $45 million.
Metallic foams are often used to provide high strength with low weight. But a new series of experiments reveals that they’re far better at providing protection from heat than their solid counterparts, too.
Washing clothes is boring; being outside in the sun is fun. So this new kind of fabric, which uses light to degrade the organic compounds that make up your filth, can’t be turned into clothes fast enough.
Screwing up a nice flat sheet of paper is usually a sign of failure—but if the material’s graphene, it may be a good idea. Researchers have shown that crumpling the carbon-based material can actually provide it with some impressive new properties.