Four Super Absorbent Materials of Man & Nature
Technology, science and nature have developed unbelievably absorbent materials. A few amazing examples of extraordinarily absorbent materials are aerogel and sodium polyacrylate. Aerogel appears as smoke frozen in mid-air, and sodium polycrylate is commonly identified as the gel in disposable diapers. Nature has also produced very absorbent materials, including sea sponges -- used for hundreds of years for bathing and cleaning -- and dry clay which is great for absorbing liquids, and even hazardous materials.
Aerogel is an incredible 99 percent air. It was originally was created with silica using a dehydration process. The strange cloud-like solid is extremely lightweight and resembles smoke frozen in mid-air. There are several varieties of the amazing material, and new compounds of aerogel continue to be created today. A 60-milligram block of aerogel can hold around a gram of water. Aerogel is also a great insulator against extreme temperatures like the flame of a propane torch. Aerogel can also be applied to outer-space exploration due to its porous characteristics that can collect samples of space dust.
Sodium polyacrylate is a polymer powder that can absorb many hundreds of times its weight in water. It is most commonly used in disposable diapers. The powder can can also be used to hydrate animals during transportation over long distances and extreme climates. The powder can also be used as a soil additive of potted house plants to extend the duration of time between waterings, such as during vacations.
Sponges are Mother Nature's absorbent miracles and throughout history have been best recognized as cleaning and bathing tools. Real sponges are the remains of once-living sea sponges. Synthetic sponges are usually uniform in texture and size, and softer than sea sponges. Natural sea sponges tend to be more durable and firm compared to man-made sponges. Natural sponges have superior absorbency than synthetic sponges, and natural sponges can also outlast synthetic sponges if taken care of regularly.
Clay is a combination of fine-grained minerals usually found underneath a layer of topsoil. Dry clay can absorb its weight in liquids. The applications of clay as an absorbent material spans industrial and home owner markets. Oil dry mixtures are composed of clay and used in industry to soak up petroleum and chemical spills. Clay was first used as cat litter in 1947, which rapidly ignited a multibillion-dollar industry because of its ability to absorb urine.