Gasars – materials lighter than water, but not yet than air

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Ultralight, durable, sound and energy-absorbing, vibration dampening, good for higher temperatures – such are the gasars. These new materials, which are being developed in Poland by scientists at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, are desired, among others, in the space industry. They can help protect our planet from climate change.

Gasars, otherwise known as lotus-type structures or DioPoMats, are new materials containing various substances, seemingly difficult to reconcile – e.g., metal and ceramics with gas. “In our case, it is magnesium with hydrogen. These are amazing materials that can contain up to 70 per cent hydrogen by volume,” explains the creator of the gasars, Prof. Jerzy J. Sobczak of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow. And he adds that hydrogen is the most common element in the Universe – three-quarters of its chemical composition, and together with another gas, helium, it makes up more than 99 per cent of all terrestrial and extraterrestrial visible matter.

 

“Gasars are not lighter than air, as in the case of Professor Geist from “Lalka” by Bolesław Prus: they may have a density lower than water, but the very idea of producing metal-gas systems in this way, in the form of so-called syntactic foams, allows theoretically to think about materials lighter than air,” says Prof. Jerzy Sobczak in an interview with PAP (the Polish Press Agency)- Science in Poland.

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Gasars can be used as lightweight construction materials, absorbers of radiation or impact energy, fuel atomisers or heat sinks, and even as implants in medicine or other “spare parts” for humans. Today they are used as filters in the chemical industry, insulin filters in medicine, rocket and jet engine parts.

 

The space industry is interested in the application of gasars, e.g., for the construction of hull parts of extraterrestrial vehicles and rocket engine components. Why? “Firstly, they are light, secondly, they are strong enough, thirdly, if they are ceramic-based, they are very resistant to high temperatures, explains Prof. Sobczak.

 

The mobile stand for testing the properties of liquid metals, alloys, glasses, slags and other substances in a wide range of melting temperatures, developed by Prof. Sobczak’s team, received the Gold Medal of the ITM Industry Europe 2021 fair in Poznań in the “Science for the Economy” category. The solution has been developed in cooperation with MeasLine Ltd. and Aleksander Krupkowski Institute of Metallurgy and Materials Science, Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow.

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Currently, AGH scientists are in the process of building a larger device on a semi-industrial scale. Joint research ventures are planned in cooperation with scientists from Beijing, who have much greater capabilities than the Polish scientists in accelerating the process of producing gasars. According to Prof. Sobczak, in just a few months they can build an apparatus that Polish scientists “dream about”.

 

Work on gasars was first carried out in the 1970s in Ukraine. Since the early 1990s, they have been intensified in other centres around the world, including the USA, Germany, Japan and China, where they are working towards better and wider practical use of these materials.

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