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Thermal insulation mimics polar-bear hair

By Paul Grad |

Scientists from the University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei; https://en.ustc.edu.cn), led by professor Shu-Hong Yu, have developed a thermal insulator that mimics the structure of individual polar-bear hairs, and have scaled toward a material made of many hairs. “Polar bear hair has been evolutionarily optimized to help prevent heat loss in cold and humid conditions, which makes it an excellent model for a synthetic heat insulator,” says Yu. “By making tube aerogel out of carbon tubes, we can design an analogous elastic and lightweight material that traps heat without degrading noticeably over its lifetime,” he says. Unlike the hairs of other mammals, polar bear hairs are hollow. Each has a long, cylindrical core. The shapes and spacing of these cavities are the source of remarkable heat-holding capacity, water resistance and elasticity, all desirable properties to duplicate in a thermal insulator. The scientists manufactured millions of hollowed-out carbon tubes, each equivalent to a single strand of hair, and wound them into a spaghetti-like aerogel block. According to the scientists, the microstructure-derived thermal conductivity and elasticity are strongly dependent on the shell thickness of the interconnected…
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