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by ibgames

EARTHDATE: August 11, 2013

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by Hazed

Sometimes making a mistake results in a serendipitous discovery. This has just happened in a Swedish laboratory, where thanks to an accident in the lab, researchers have created a new material with super-absorbent properties.

The new substance has been named Upsalite, after Uppsala University where it was discovered. It is a new magnesium carbonate material, and has the highest surface area that has been measured for its type - 800 square meters per gram. It’s filled with empty pores which have a diameter smaller than 10 nanometers.

All this means it can absorb more water than the most advanced materials currently in existence.

Actually, what it does is to adsorb rather than absorb. If you want to know the difference, read the info in the source link below.

What’s significant about Upsalite is the uses it could be put to. There could be applications in electronics and in drug delivery - but most crucially, it could be used to suck up toxic waste, dangerous chemicals and oil spills.

Upsalite’s discovery really was an accident. For over one hundred years, researchers have been trying to create a water-free disordered form of magnesium carbonate, with no success. Over the years, studies kept on concluding it was impossible.

But the Swedish research team succeeded because they were forgetful. They made a few changes to the synthesis parameters of an earlier unsuccessful attempt, and then by mistake left it in the reaction chamber for an entire weekend. On Monday morning, they discovered a rigid gel had formed. They dried out the gel and realized they were on to something.

It took another year of experiments and refinements, and then upsalite was born.

This will go down in scientific history as one of the great, successful, mistakes.

Source: http://io9.com/swedish-researchers-create-an-impossible-material-by-880572412

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