Wonder Bread is already semi-miraculous: It’s impossibly soft, sweet, and shelf-stable. But unlocking the true potential inside this fluffy stuff results in a substance nearly impervious to heat and electricity, not dissimilar from what used to cover the exterior of spacecraft.
The process for turning Wonder Bread into carbon foam is essentially the same as making charcoal. As extremely Canadian tinkerer AvE shows, you just stick the material into a very hot oxygen-free container until it’s blackened. Just as charcoal retains the shape of the wood, carbonized Wonder Bread is full of the same tiny holes that make the unburnt version so fluffy. Holes mean foam, foam means incredible insulating properties.
AvE’s creation can, by his estimation, withstand temperature of up to 6,600 degrees Celsius (about 11,900 degrees Fahrenheit) and has an exceptionally high electric resistance. Arguably the coolest thing about this baking incident gone wrong is that astonishing levels of heat don’t really melt or burn it in the traditional sense—it sublimates, instantly turning into gas.
All of this is backed up by a recent study in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. The researchers found that carbon foam made from bread “is mechanically stiff, can shield against electromagnetic interference and is much less flammable than current carbon foams.” Scientists sat in a lab, made bread, and torched it because this method is cheaper—and in some cases better—than existing options to manufacture carbon foam.