New Material Expands Under Pressure

June 12, 2013 — When you squeeze something, it gets smaller. Unless you're at Argonne National Laboratory.

At the suburban Chicago laboratory, a group of scientists has seemingly defied the laws of physics and found a way to apply pressure to make a material expand instead of compress/contract.

"It's like squeezing a stone and forming a giant sponge," said Karena Chapman, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy laboratory. "Materials are supposed to become denser and more compact under pressure. We are seeing the exact opposite. The pressure-treated material has half the density of the original state. This is counterintuitive to the laws of physics."

Because this behavior seems impossible, Chapman and her colleagues spent several years testing and retesting the material until they believed the unbelievable and understood how the impossible could be possible. For every experiment, they got the same mind-bending results.

This is one of those times I'm not really sure about the applications for this. I've never had a need for a spongy material other than for doing dishes so I've never thought on this kind of level. Perhaps we can open this up for discussion however? Feel free to post comments!