Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wouldn't you know I'd happen across this just as it's getting warm out

Not that I'm complaining about the beautiful day, but I sure do wish I read about pykrete a few months earlier.

Forget about ice-9:

Pykrete is a super-ice, strengthened tremendously by mixing in wood pulp as it freezes. By freezing a slurry of 14 percent wood pulp, the mechanical strength of ice rockets up to a fairly consistent seventy kilograms per square centimeter. A 7.69 mm rifle bullet, when fired into pure ice, will penetrate to a depth of about thirty-six centimeters. Fired into pykrete, it will penetrate less than half as far—about the same distance as a bullet fired into brickwork. Yet you can mold pykrete into blocks from the simplest materials and then plane it, just like wood. And it has tremendous crush resistance: a one-inch column of the stuff will support an automobile. Moreover, it takes much longer to melt than pure ice. But as strong and eco-friendly as it is, pykrete remains forgotten today save among glaciologists, who express bafflement over why no one has made use of it.

Though the name suggests it, pykrete has nothing to do with Guido van Rossum. Rather, it was named for its inventor, Geoffrey Pyke, "who the Times of London once declared 'one of the most original if unrecognized figures of the present century.'"

For a brief time during World War II, it looked like the next big thing. Churchill, Mountbatten, and FDR all loved it. A fascinating story.

Inuitively, it still sounds like a great idea.


Hat tip to Wired's Tim Maly: "How to Make an Indestructible Snow Fort."


M. Bouffant said...

Moreover, it takes much longer to melt than pure ice
But it still melts, dunnit?

TC said...

The mythbusters tested pykrete in one of their shows. The video is here:

If you google it up one of the things suggested is to put a steel casing around the island and then run cold seawater through the casing to keep it frozen. A block of ice the size of an island stays cold for a long time and when it melts it starts at the outside edge, so if you keep the edge from melting, you're good to go