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New metallic bubble wrap offers big benefits over other protective materials

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Posted July 9, 2013
Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new metallic bubble wrap that is lighter, stronger and more flexible than sheet metal and more heat- and chemical-resistant than plastic or other polymer-based bubble wraps. Credit: Afsaneh Rabiei

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new metallic bubble wrap that is lighter, stronger and more flexible than sheet metal and more heat- and chemical-resistant than plastic or other polymer-based bubble wraps. Credit: Afsaneh Rabiei

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new metallic bubble wrap that is lighter, stronger and more flexible than sheet metal and more heat- and chemical-resistant than plastic or other polymer-based bubble wraps. Potential applications include automobile body panels, the wing edges of airplanes, suitcases, helmets and cases for computers and other electronic devices.

“This material does exactly what sheet metal and other bubble wraps do, but better,” said Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the lead researcher on the project. “And it won’t cost businesses and consumers very much because producing it requires just a few steps.”

Rabiei developed the metallic bubble wrap to offer protection in areas that are only a few millimeters thick. To be effective, such materials must be thin enough to fit inside tightly spaced product linings, flexible enough to withstand twisting and bending, and strong enough to protect the contents inside.

To create the bubble wrap, Rabiei started with a thin sheet of aluminum and used a studded roller to dot the material with small indentations. Then she deposited a foaming agent—such as calcium carbonate or titanium hydrate—into the indentations. When heated, such agents decompose and create bubbles.

Read more at: Phys.org

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