When it comes to taking up room without adding too much weight, the bubble can’t be beat. Because they are mostly air, they’re ultra-lightweight and can expand to fill any given space.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) found a way to exploit these properties of bubbles to create “microbombs” that expands with heat to form “microclusters,” which fit themselves to fill their physical confinement. When expanding to large volumes and filling spaces, microclusters become extremely lightweight with soft and adaptable boundaries. Using this material, the researchers hope to improve heat and sound insulation, electromagnetic interference shielding and a process called jamming that has been used in robotics and materials design.