Julia Greer on Super-Lightweight Nano Metamaterials

This is somewhat off-topic, but something I found so interesting I thought I’d share it here. I recently came across this video presentation via NextBigFuture.com by Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who gave a fascinating ‘Moonshot’ presentation as part of Google’s ‘Solve for X’ program which seeks to discover innovative ways of solving significant societal and technological problems.

Dr. Greer works and teaches in the field of nanomechanics and in this video describes processes of creating materials based on the principle of ‘smaller is stronger’ where geometric design on the nanoscale allow for the creation of materials that are far stronger and lighter than if those geometries were made on larger scales.

The video below includes some quite startling claims about how Dr. Greer envisions the future of objects (imagine literally picking your car up and placing it in your roof — yes she says that with a straight face), and shows a remarkable video clip (filmed by an electron microscope) of how an alumina matrix her team has created reacts under pressure (around the 4:40 mark).

Dr. Greer’s team is working in a lab environment, and scaling up of this technology has not yet been possible, but she thinks it is feasible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dahz8wYWvos

After watching this presentation I have wondered about the possible impacts of super-lightweight materials on energy consumption. If, as Dr. Greer claims, a full sized airplane could be designed to be as light as a handheld model, energy consumption would be insignificant. On the other hand, in practical terms, how would super-lightweight materials fare under natural pressures like high winds, turbulence and rain? On the other hand, there are applications for this kind of technology within all kinds of more conventional technologies which would not seem so problematic — for example, she mentions use in batteries towards the end of the video.

This is a new field to me, and quite fascinating — but there are a lot of unanswered questions and much engineering to be done before we could be looking at these kinds of materials in the real world.

We focus mainly on energy technologies here at ECW, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that LENR development is not happening in a vacuum; there are many other technological fields where advances are taking place, and what this cumulative development leads to up could be quite different to what we currently envision.

UPDATE: I found this shorter video of Julia Greer giving a nice explanation of her overall vision behind her work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-8kK0Z_sy0

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