Science is pretty amazing. It can cure us of many diseases, it can send us to space. It can also create incredibly strange substances that some would think belongs in a sci-fi movie. From a solid that melts in your hands to a material that can help build a space elevator, here are the top 10 most unusual substances ever created.
Glowee is light-source that doesn’t need electricity. That’s because it’s made of bacterium that emits light. In order to achieve this, the company genetically modified bacterium to be bioluminescent. The bacteria contains genes that are found in the Hawaiian bobtail squid.
Each bulb of a Glowee light has a transparent shell with nutrients and oxygen. The result is a bluish-green light! According to the company, they want to offer a solution that lowers light pollution. The neat thing about Glowee is that the light can take any shape. So, it can be used as a window sticker or like a conventional lamp.
The problem is the lights only work for 3 days, and there’s the potential it may aid in the spread of harmful bacterial infections. Imagine if people got infected, turned into zombies and walked around with glowing eyes like in call of duty zombies! Still, the company is already prototyping for longer lasting ones. It’ll be interesting to see if it will be a popular light source in the future.
Gallium is quite an unusual metal. The smartest among you will know its actually an element, rather than a man made substance. We discovered it, we didn’t invent it. Still, its so cool, it had to be included in this article.At low temperatures, its a hard, brittle metal. But at temperatures greater that 29.76 °C or 85.57 °F, its a liquid. That means if you put it in your hands, it melts into a shiny puddle… sort of like metallic ice.
This metal is mainly used in things like electronic circuits and semiconductors. If you’re ever interested, you can easily buy a little bit of Gallium online for around 10 dollars. You need to be careful with it, though. It can damage other metals, especially if they already have a little bit of wear and tear. Look at what Gallium can do to a scratched-up iPhone in this video. Just a few hours after it is poured, the iPhone is completely destroyed. So, let that be a lesson: if you’re playing with Gallium, you’ll want to keep your electronics far away from it.
8. Artificial Spider Silk
Have you ever wanted to be Spider-Man? Well, your dream might be one step closer to becoming a reality. That’s because people are working to mass produce artificial spider silk. What good does that do, you ask? Well, in case you didn’t know, spider’s silk is one of the strongest materials around. It’s 5 times stronger than steel. If a strand of steel was as thin as the silk of a spiders web, it would be 5 times easier to destroy.
We can only rip spider silk apart because its so thin. The only problem is that it’s really hard to make in mass quantities. Scientists have been trying to produce artificial spider silk for a while. It’s only recently, however, that people have made some breakthroughs. For example, a Japanese startup named Spiber managed to decode the gene responsible for creating silk.
Now, they developed a bacteria that can quickly create spider silk in just 10 days. They expect to use the silk for many things, from clothes to space travel. They also have a car seat prototype that would improve safety, because of the silk’s high shock-absorbing potential.
What’s even better is that they don’t need to involve a single creepy spider to do it.
7. Carbon Nanothreads
This strange substance is capable of a lot of things. Here are 2 examples: It can be used to cure cancer and even build an elevator to space. Quite a creation, right? This manmade fiber is also known as diamond nanothreads. Its composed of carbon atoms arranged in a zigzagging structure. The way they’re created is by compressing liquid benzene to extreme pressure; 200,000 times the air pressure at the surface of the Earth. It measures only three carbons across and is 20,000 times thinner than a single human hair. Don’t let its size fool you, though. The substance is one of the stiffest, strongest nanomaterials ever made.
That’s why it could be used to create a space elevator, because it would be strong and yet light enough for the task. You couldn’t do the same with steel, because eventually, the steel would break under its own weight. There’s a lot we have yet to learn about nanothreads, since they were only discovered in 2014, but let’s hope that someday this material will help us take the most amazing elevator ride of our lives.
Concrete is all around us. It helped build entire cities, from buildings to bridges and incredible structures like dams. But, right now, repairing concrete is time-consuming and expensive. Producing concrete, too, creates a good deal of pollution in the world. That’s where BacillaFilla comes in.
This strange substance is a genetically modified bacteria designed to repair cracks in concrete. It was developed in 2010 by a group of college students. BacillaFilla is such a great creation because it can prolong the life of the material it’s applied to. The bacteria is designed to be sprayed near the fissures in concrete. There, it starts germinating.
Once it hits the bottom of the crack, it produces a mix of calcium carbonate and bacterial glue. This mixture “knits” the building back together which would be incredibly useful in earthquake-prone areas, reducing the cost of rebuilding. Quite an ingenius invention from a group of college kids, right?
Starlite is a strange substance invented by British amateur chemist and hairdresser Maurice Ward during the1970’s and 1980s’. I say ‘mysterious’ because nobody knows exactly what its made of, only that it can withstand extreme heat. It gained significant popularity after it aired in 1990 on the BBC tech show ‘tomorrows world’ where it coated an egg, protecting it from the heat of a blowtorch so that it could be cracked open without being cooked.
Under tests, Starlite was claimed to be able to withstand a laser beam that could produce a temperature of 10,000 degrees Celsius. Apparrently Ward negotiated with the British Department of Defence, Boeing, and even NASA who wanted to use the material in their projects, but gained a reputation for being impossible to negotiate with, asking for “£1 million one day, then £10 million the next.” Sadly, Ward died in 2011 without ever commercializing or patenting his revolutionary material. In fact, only his closest relatives know about the composition of starlite.
Even so, its properties have been successfully replicated. YouTuber NightHawkInLight created a similar material in 2018. He used cornstarch, baking soda, and PVA glue. After drying, the hardened material creates a small layer of carbon foam on the surface when exposed to high heat, insulating the material from further heat transfer.
At first glance, D3O looks like silly orange putty. But, actually, it’s something that could save your life. You see, D3O is a shock-absorbing gel, whose exact chemical ingredients are a commercial secret. It feels gelatinous when you handle it, but it quickly hardens under impact. Such substances are known as non-Newtonian fluids. Take a look at this video, for example. Look what happens when you lightly touch it. Now, look how it reacts when its struck really hard. It hardens quickly, protecting the person.
D3O started development in 1999, but only finished in 2005. It’s made of molecules that move around freely when under gentle pressure, but come together tightly when they’re suddenly impacted.
Whats special about D30 is that it’s particularly sensitive to the speed at which things move, leading to a soft material that has great shock absorbtion and impact resistant properties. This strange substance became popular after it was worn by alpine ski athletes along the shins and forearms of their clothing during the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Now, it’s used in a variety of different products, from shoe insoles to army equipment. It can also be used to protect electronics… Which seems like a great way to safeguard your phone, if you’re prone to dropping it.
3. Magnetic Thinking Putty
This stuff is pretty cool to play with. It can be bent, bounced, molded, popped and stretched like regular silly putty, but Magnetic Thinking Putty takes regular “silly” putty and turns its awesomeness up to 11. Just move a magnet close to it, and it exhibits a life of its own! That’s because the putty is infused with millions of tiny micron-sized magnetic particles inside it. The tiny magnets inside are a fine powder like Ferric iron oxide. Using strong magnets, you can charge particles in the putty to pick up objects, but that’s not the coolest thing it does. If you set it near a strong magnet, and film a time lapse over about half an hour, it will entirely engulf it like a monstrous slime.
Only extremely strong magnets like neodymium magnets will be engulfed by this magno-monster as the tiny, randomly aligned magnets in the putty re-align themselves, and as they do, they get attacked to new areas on the magnet they engulf. Although it looks really monstrous, most Thinking Putty is safe and non-toxic for children.
2. Ultra Hydrophobic Material
Now, this is good news for those who tend to spill too much water on their couches. Scientists are getting closer and closer to producing completely waterproof surfaces. They took inspiration from surfaces that are found in nature, like the lotus leaf. So, how is it done? By creating a coating with things like aluminum oxide nanoparticles. These nanoparticles make the surfaces rougher, repelling water. The results are amazing. Check out the video for the Ultra-Ever Dry, a product that repels water and oils. Look at how this paper reacts with the liquid. It looks like a special effect in a movie, but it’s the result of the waterproof coating. The comparison shots are also incredible. Look at the difference between a coated tissue and a non-coated one.
The liquid practically doesn’t affect the waterproofed tissue. The applications for this are plentiful. For example, It can be used to protect vehicles from things like ice. It can also be used to coat medical devices, helping with procedures. And, hey, it can also help you prevent stains all over your house. That’s pretty big, too.
Another similar coating is being licensed by Samsung for their upcoming phones. It’s a ‘superhydrophobic’ glass coating that is waterproof and anti-reflective. So, when your in the shower and a song you hate comes on, you could just change the song on your phone without needing to dry your fingers first. It’s Just another awesome technology making our lives that little bit easier.
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Aerogel is incredible. It’s the world’s lightest solid, invented in 1931, by replacing liquid within a certain gel with a gas. Aerogel can be made of several different materials, but the silica variation is the most common type. It has nicknames like “blue smoke” or “frozen cloud”. It also looks just like a hologram from an old movie. This hard gel is mostly comprised of air. That’s why its so lightweight. It doesn’t just have that going for it, though. It is also excellent for repelling heat. You can see it here, protecting a flower from burning, now that’s cool!
Here’s a Fun fact: the creation of the aerogel was the result of a bet between two scientists over who could replace the liquid in “jellies” with gas without causing shrinkage.. And that bet really paid off! The Aerogel has been used for things like collecting dust from a comet’s tail to creating clothing that can protect people from extreme heat.Then In 2013, Chinese scientists created the graphene aerogel, a new, lighter type of aerogel.
This aerogel is seven times lighter than air. The reason it doesn’t float is because its extremely porous, and air fills the holes within it. If the air was sucked out, like it a vaccum, it would indeed float.The pictures of it look photoshopped, but it’s completely real. You can see it here being propped up by the stems of a flower.
Or here, being held up by a single feather.
The graphene aerogel was created using a new technique. It involves freeze-drying solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene, creating this new kind of carbon sponge. The material is also very strong and elastic. Scientists are expecting to use it as a way to clean up oil spills. That’s because it repels water and absorbs oil. It’s pretty good at that, actually. It can absorb 900 times its own weight in oil. Not only that, but it can also be reused. You can wring out of the oil and use it again to absorb more. Sounds like a great solution to a horrible problem.
Which strange substance impressed you the most? What is the one that would be most useful to you? Let me know in the comments section down below! Thanks for reading.
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