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Gizmorama - April 11, 2016

Good Morning,

Did you know that there is such a thing as metal foam? Did you know that metal foam is rather strong? How strong? Well, apparently strong enough to stop a bullet. No, seriously!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Metal foam strong enough to stop bullets --*

RALEIGH, N.C. - Armor piercing bullets are supposed to be indestructible. They never met metal foam.

Materials scientists at North Carolina State University have been working with composite metal foams, or CMFs, for several years.

Recently, NC State scientists tested the ultra-light, high-strength material's possible use as body and vehicle armor. Results suggest metal foam has tremendous bullet-stopping potential.

This week, researchers released a video showing a layer of CMF halting armor-piercing bullets.

"We could stop the bullet at a total thickness of less than an inch, while the indentation on the back was less than 8 millimeters," Afsaneh Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State, said in a news release. "To put that in context, the NIJ standard allows up to 44 millimeters indentation in the back of an armor."

The NIJ, or National Institute of Justice, sets performance standards for bulletproof vests and other types of combat armor.

Scientists say CMFs have potential beyond body armor. Because it is so light -- in addition to being super strong -- researchers are interested in its potential use in aviation and space travel. Previous tests have proven its ability to effectively shield X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation.

*-- Graphene layer lets solar panels to generate energy in rain --*

QINGDAO, China - Engineers and materials scientists have made solar panels increasingly efficient, but the technology still requires the cooperation of the weather. Currently, slow-moving rain fronts spell bad news for solar power generation -- but not for a new prototype solar cell developed by a team of Chinese scientists.

By coating a solar cell in a thin layer of graphene, researchers have empowered the technology to turn raindrops into electricity.

Graphene is prized by materials scientists for its wide variety of benefits, one of them being conductivity. The one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms allows a plethora of electrons to move freely across its surface. In water solutions, graphene binds positively charged ions with its electrons -- a process known as the Lewis acid-base interaction.

Because raindrops contain salts, which dissociate into ions, precipitation and graphene make an ideal electricity-producing pair. The rain's positively charged ions -- including sodium, calcium, and ammonium ions -- adhere to the graphene surface and form a double layer with the graphene's electrons.

The double layer is known as a pseudocapacitor, and the potential energy difference between the two layers is strong enough to generate an electric current.

Researchers described the new technology in the journal Angewandte Chemie.


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