By Dr. Cameron Chai
An innovative, lighter, stronger, sustainable buoyant material has been presented at the American Chemical Society’s 2012 National Meeting & Exposition.
The material has been developed to mimic the long, thin feet of water striders. With the use of the material, a 1-pound boat has been designed that can carry five kitchen refrigerators, weighing approximately 1,000 lbs.
Olli Ikkala, Ph.D., a professor at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland, has offered a presentation titled, ‘Cellulose-Based Biomimetic and Biomedical Materials,’ at the meeting. He has explained that the new material is made of an aerogel, which includes tiny nano-fibrils from the plant cellulose. The materials based on nanocellulose aerogels are flexible and have amazing mechanical properties. These materials can be used in a wide range of applications, including production of super-buoyant beach floats, children’s toys, miniaturized military robots and sensors to detect environmental pollution, as well as cleaning up oil spills.
The nanocellulose aerogel has enabled water striders to walk on water. In addition to being highly buoyant, the material has an ability to absorb huge amounts of oil. Thus, it has a potential application for cleaning up oil spills. Ikkala has also explained the application of cellulose, a sustainable and renewable raw material, in the design and development of biomimetic materials. He quoted that the cellulose is an abundantly available polymer on the planet. The most common commercial application of the cellulose is in the production of textiles and paper. However, the applications have been expanded with the development of an advanced form of cellulose. One application has been in Ikkala’s nanocellulose carriers that have greater buoyance property.