Back when I was a young whippersnapper, aerogel was a new and exciting wondermaterial. Since then, the aerated silica gel has been surpassed in some ways by other materials with even lower densities, but a new flexible incarnation of aerogel is destined to make the jump from labs at NASA to the socks on our feet.
There was once a time where a pearl was a spectacularly rare thing. Cultured pearls have ruined that a little bit, but we haven't been able to replicate the trick that mollusks pull to produce nacre, the material responsible for both mother of pearl and pearls. Instead, we've just managed to improve on it, in a laboratory.
For a long time, aerogel was the lightest and least dense material ever made. Late last year, a metallic lattice structure took the crown. And today, the new champion is officially aerographite, with a density so low that it barely exists at all.
Pitcher plants make a living by drowning insects inside special cup-shaped leaves and then feeding on their remains. To get the insects to fall in and stay in, the plants have evolved an exceptionally slippery substance to coat their leaves, and a new synthetic material that mimics this substance is ten times slipperier than the next best thing.
Putting up a building takes a long time. You need to lay a foundation and then slowly stack your materials up. Not so with Concrete Cloth. Called "a building in a bag," it can be turned into a solid structure in mere minutes.
Liquid Glass could change our world more than Teflon and GoreTex did. The flexible and breathable material coats any surface with a 1000th-of-an-inch-thick layer of pure silicon dioxide, otherwise known as glass. What's the big deal about that? Such a...