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Foam is a widely available substance that we use everyday and quite often without realising it. Essentially a plastic with air blown through it, foam can be manufactured in nearly any conceivable shape and density, which makes it remarkably versatile. Whereas there are many fantastic foam products that already improve on the more traditional versions, such as foam mattresses, which are readily available from many retailers akin to ACT Foam and Rubber, things are always marching forwards. Scientific research is being conducted all the time, and there have been many cutting edge, modern applications for foam (with a little help from other components at times) that you will probably find hard to believe.
Most people have heard of asbestos and know that it is a dangerous substance that gets into your lungs and causes a lot of health issues. But there is more to asbestos than the carcinogenic properties it is known for. The main reason it is so prevalent is due to its use as a highly effective fire retardant, meaning that it was widely used to fireproof buildings before its harmful side effects were known. Now asbestos presents a big challenge as it is dangerous to remove, difficult to handle and must be disposed of correctly to ensure peoples safety, but an American company has developed a form of foam that actively breaks down and neutralises asbestos. This revolutionary product can simply be injected into an asbestos filled cavity and it will break the asbestos down into harmless silicate and sets into an even more effective fireproofing substance.
An aerospace firm has managed to develop a foam that is capable of stopping armour piercing bullets. This foam is technically a hybrid as it is mixed with metals to form a composite metal foam that is lighter than body armour and has been proven capable of not only stopping armour piercing rounds fired at it, but actually causing the bullets to disintegrate due to its resistance. Similar products have also proven highly effective in providing protection against multiple forms of radiation, including the comic book favourite gamma rays. This level of efficient protection means there really is no limit to the applications for such materials.
A university research and development team recently managed to use their 3D printer to generate something that could change the face of medical science – a working human heart. This heart was printed using a special kind of memory foam called poroelastic memory foam. This material allows the printed heart to be sensitive to fluid pressures and other biological stimuli to cause it to actually be able to beat and pump blood around the body. Whilst they are still a long way from actually trying this out on a human recipient, the prospect of being able to recreate organs on demand truly feels like science fiction, but it is happening today; and all because of foam.