POSSIBLE APPLICATIONS OF GRAPHITE FOAM: Scientists say graphite foam is the only material in nature that both absorbs sound and conducts heat. The foam costs about two or three times more than aluminum, but has a wide variety of possible applications. It can be used in plumbing, electronics, and cookware. Lockheed Martin space systems used the material to create a radiator for use in satellites, and they plan on using it for the first time next year.
WHAT HEATS UP YOUR HARD DRIVE? A hard drive is a storage device that rapidly records data as magnetic pulses on spinning metal platters, usually made of ceramic and aluminum. It is the heart of the computer, pumping vital data to the rest of the system. A motor spins the platters at speeds ranging from 4,500 to 15,000 rotations per minute. Data is stored and retrieved from the platter by a read/write head, which moves over grooves in the spinning platters much like a record player's needle. A fast-spinning drive can access and transfer data quickly -- but it also generates a substantial amount of heat, which causes the components to expand. That's why most computers have cooling systems, like the power supply fan that keeps air flowing through the casing. Introducing new materials like graphite foam allows engineers to build thinner and more heat-resistant platters with the aim of improving performance.
The Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.