Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pond skaters' feet inspire buoyant new material

The feet of pond skaters have helped create a novel super-buoyant material.
Finnish scientists have drawn on the structure of the insect's foot to exploit its ability to let the creature skim across a pond's surface.
The buoyancy of the material has been boosted by making it out of plant cellulose.
The properties that make it float could help it act like a powerful sponge to aid oil spill clean-ups, say its creators.
Five fridges
The material is a type of aerogel - substances in which the liquid has been replaced with a gas but the structural components are left in place. The lightest aerogels are only a few times denser than air itself and have been called "solid smoke".
The aerogel created by Dr Olli Ikkala and colleagues at the Helsinki University of Technology uses tiny fibres from plant cellulose - a natural polymer that, in some ways, resembles plastic.

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