10 Interesting Futuristic Materials

1. Aerogel

Aerogel holds 15 entries in the Guinness Book of Records, including “best insulator”, and “lowest-density solid”. Sometimes called “frozen smoke”, aerogel is made by the supercritical drying of liquid gels of alumina, chromia, tin oxide, or carbon. It’s 99.8% empty space, which makes it look semi-transparent. Aerogel is a fantastic insulator — if you had a shield of aerogel, you could easily defend yourself from a flamethrower. It stops cold, it stops heat. You could build a warm dome on the Moon. Aerogels have unbelievable surface area in their internal fractal structures — cubes of aerogel just an inch on a side may have an internal surface area equivalent to a football field. Despite its low density, aerogel has been looked into as a component of military armor because of its insulating properties.

2. Carbon nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes are chains of carbon held together by the strongest bond in all chemistry, the sacred sp2 bond, even stronger than the sp3 bonds that hold together diamond. Carbon nanotubes have numerous remarkable physical …

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High Cost of Force Protection

From My Confined Space. This post was just supposed to be for fun, but it inspired Brian Wang, and now me, to think about futuristic warfare a little more seriously.

I don’t think the future of warfare (if there is one — world peace is possible) lies in mechs either, unless they are extremely fast (supersonic). I would favor a mix of 1) distributed fairyfly bots and 2) massive force projection, 3) the ability for the entire army to run away very quickly when threatened.

Flying machines inspired by insect biomechanics could be very small — fairyflies are 140 microns across. A microgram of botulinum is enough to kill ten people. If you could manufacture trillions of these, your army would be extremely hard to stop. You can’t seal every soldier in a completely airtight container. Advanced (5-10+ years after MNT, if MNT is possible) bloodborne nanomachines could theoretically combat this, but they’d have to respond very quickly. A fairyfly bot could merely fire …

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