High Tech Materials

September 25th, 2015 by
Posted in Uncategorized

manmade-materialsOne of the coolest things about human beings is that we are never satisfied. When we first picked up a stick and discovered it could be used as a tool, somebody thought: what if I sharpen it? When we first used a rock to break something, someone thought: what if I attach it to a stick? When we discovered we could make stuff out of wood, someone thought: I wonder if there is something harder lying around?

The discovery of smelting around 3000 BC led to the beginning of the Iron Age and to advancements in new tools and weapons that could be fashioned from iron, lead, copper, and tin. Of course, not content with any of these metals on their own, we began experimenting with combining them, and alloys were born. The first alloy, made over 6,000 years ago: bronze, which at the time was 75% copper and 25% tin. One of our more modern alloys, and one with the perhaps the widest range of uses: stainless steel, which is a combination of iron, chromium, and nickel. Stainless steel might be considered the first “high tech material”, ushering in the modern age.

And now, in the 21st century, because we are never satisfied, we have an explosion of new high tech materials. Steel? Too thick and heavy. Now we have graphene, a nanomaterial that is one atom thick and 200 times stronger than steel. Regular glass? Not good enough. Now we have Gorilla Glass, ultra-thin and flexible, and keeping your smartphones scratch and crack-free. Styrofoam? Don’t make me laugh. Now we have aerogel, the lightest solid ever created, which can support up to 4,000 times it weight and insulates from both heat and cold.

As it was at the dawn of the Iron Age, we can’t even yet imagine all the uses for the new materials that our restless minds have created. One thing is certain: our inability to ever rest on our laurels will continue to pave the way to new wonders, new tools, and new materials.

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