Rice husks might be the key to lowering electricity use, bomb-proofing buildings and making products—from airplanes to tennis rackets—lighter. A Malaysian scientist says she’s found a cheap way to create aerogel, the world’s lightest solid, from discarded rice husks. The material combines incredible insulating power and strength with near weightlessness, reports AP, but has so far been prohibitively expensive to make.
Aerogel is 37 times more effective as an insulator than fiberglass, so coating buildings with it would slash heating and air-conditioning needs. It also absorbs air pollutants and works well for bomb- and sound-proofing. Peers called the scientist’s work “an exciting breakthrough” and a “miracle solution” to creating cheap aerogel. The process won’t be ready for commercial use for a few years.