Foam Technology

Foam Technology: Amazing Foams
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by Jonathan Kolber,  The Sleuth (Sign up FREE today!)

Foams are remarkable compounds. A tiny amount of chemical, mixed with air and usually water through violent agitation, produces a huge volume of bubbles. The result is mostly air, yet depending on the chemical it can have remarkable properties.

Just consider for a moment the tiny amount of bubble bath solution your favorite lady requires to fill a bathtub. Some ladies find the resulting foam so soothing they can luxuriate in it for hours.

Foams also have more exotic uses. Let’s consider a few…

So-called “sticky foam” was thought to be a nonlethal weapon of choice in the 1990s. It was used by US Marines in Somalia in 1995.

The stuff is amazing because it can literally immobilize a person in seconds. Unfortunately, if it covers the nose and mouth it can still prove fatal. Also, it can be difficult and time-consuming to remove the person from the spot to which they’re glued.

Foam Technology: Foam That’s Stronger Than Steel

Now, according to Defensetech, an ingenious new use has been found. Sticky foam is being used as a kind of “ultimate firewall” for ultra high-security facilities such as those that store nuclear weapons.

Steel doors are being specially constructed with containers of foam solution built in. If the door is forced open, the foam surges forth and rapidly expands forty-fold in volume. The result is an instant barricade. It buys time for reinforcements to arrive.

Though it’s not being discussed, another use for the same technology is in the doors of bank vaults. I expect that manufacturers are quietly exploring this option right now.

In addition, it seems to me that sticky foam has other potential uses that have not yet been publicly discussed. For example, why not have jets shoot a layer of the stuff in front of an out-of-control vehicle? By increasing the traction of the car’s tires, this might shave precious fractions of a second off the stopping time. It could save lives.

Another interesting foam is aerogel. This remarkable stuff is almost solidified air. It’s 99.8% air and 0.2% chemicals. It is almost transparent, and holds 2,000 times its weight.

Foam Technology: Firefighting Foam

When made from silicon, it’s an outstanding insulation material.

While it normally resists water, aerogel can be treated to attract and hold moisture.

Carbon aerogels are exceptionally conductive by area required. They are being used to make a special “paper” for electrodes and capacitors.

Aerogels can even be made from carbon nanotubes instead of conventional graphite particles. According to Wikipedia, the result is elastic foam that can be spun into fibers stronger than Kevlar, with unique electrical properties.

Aerogels are commonly used to add insulation to skylights, and are starting to be used for more general window applications. It’s also being used to make exceptionally light, warm blankets. It has numerous other uses, and is sold commercially in the form of solid shapes, powders, and composite paper.

I knew an entrepreneur in the 1990s who had developed a novel tool for firefighting. He called it, “Firefoam?”. Most firefighting uses either jets of water or combustion-inhibiting bombs; Firefoam was intended to maximize the benefit from a gallon of water.

How? Consider again that bubble bath. Firefoam could expand the area covered by water dozens of times over. This would increase the firefighting power of whatever water was available — basically, by turning air into a weapon against fire.

In addition, it could be used to protectively coat a building in the path of a wildfire. The foam would adhere to the surface, offering long-lasting wetting action.

Foam Technology: Mining Minerals in Outer Space

Finally, let’s consider an interesting use of foams relating to natural resources that should loom significant in about 20 years. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter offers a practically unlimited supply of every element. Mining these will be surprisingly easy once we have a permanent working presence in space.

But the question arises: how to bring the mined material back to Earth? After all, a ball of copper a few dozen feet in diameter could do a lot of damage if dropped from orbit.

One ingenious solution is to foam the mined materials. Since nitrogen is plentiful in asteroids, it could be collected like any other element. By injecting nitrogen into a heat-liquefied ball of metal, it would turn into a huge “metallic sponge.”

Bizarre as this may sound, the engineering is straightforward. The resulting “foam copper” would weigh little per cubic foot and could be safely dropped from orbit to an empty spot in the ocean. It would make a modest splash, and then float until dragged ashore for consumption.

The Transformational Technologies Portfolio is holding SpaceDev (OTC:SPDV), which has asteroid mining as part of its long-term business plan. They’ve already developed the next generation of rocket engines.

We’ll see what’s next.

To your Profitable Future,

Jonathan Kolber

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“…Membranes are boring, right? Wrong — membranes do all kinds of amazing work, separating the things we want from the things we don’t. This ranges from reverse osmosis, which makes salty seawater drinkable, to some really exciting new nanotechnology. One of them could even save your life…”

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“…Historically, the major problem with solar power has been something engineers call ‘energy density.’ Essentially, this means that the amount of sunlight striking a given area hasn’t been intense enough or steadily reliable enough to power energy-intense activities such as industrial processes, vehicles or modern homes loaded with electrical conveniences…”

Useful Links about Foam Technology:

Aqueous Foam Technology – A list of references explaining various types of foams and how they are used in all types of practical applications. – Everything you would want to know about firefoam, including how it’s made and major uses of it.
Wikipedia The internet’s free encyclopedia offers information about aerogels and their properties.

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