There are amazing man-made materials out there. Super plastics, super ceramics, super metals. We mostly read about them in science magazines. One of the reasons these awesome materials do not get used as much as they should is because they are expensive or hard to get. But a more important reason is the simple fact that an engineer building a prototype probably missed the news article about the material, or could not get her hands on a sample in time.
iDEO, a design company that I worship has a very cool tradition: keeping a special box with all kinds of crazy material samples in every office. Engineers and designers can borrow pieces just to play with them or to use them in projects.
One of the examples that I know of, is the special rubbery plastic that they used to isolate TIVO‘s hard drive in order to reduce vibrations and sound. My TIVO is very quiet.
Interestingly enough, these days many super materials can be purchased on eBay. Take for instance that aerogel plastic that was recently used to capture some comet dust that will surely bring an end to our civilization. Photos of it look like some crappy Photoshop special effects.
Well, you can have a sample of your own for about 30 bucks.
Or how about Fluorinert? It’s a completely non-conductive liquid made by 3M that Seymore Cray (hey, have you seen this post of mine?) used to immerse his supercomputers in. Yes, you can have your own computer in an aquarium with the help of eBay!
Unfortunately it looks like nobody is selling LN2, so you can’t do this. Or make LN2 ice cream.