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CONFERENCE SHOWS RESEARCH SPINOFFS
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CONFERENCE SHOWS RESEARCH SPINOFFS

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An ultra-light foam that looks like frozen smoke and a sports car that can go 250 mph are some of the products being displayed this week at a NASA conference showcasing technology developed from government research.

``I tell people it's a solid block of air,' said chemist Thomas Tillotson, holding a block of the foam developed to hold liquid hydrogen while withstanding the heat of experimental fusion reactors.The material, known as an aerogel, didn't work for that purpose but is finding use as insulation. The foam is made of silicon dioxide, the same substance as sand, but can be up to 99.8 percent air.

Because the material contains so much air, it is an excellent insulator that can be compressed to 40 percent of its volume and return to 97 percent of its original shape.

Gerald A. Wiegert, meanwhile, is hawking his $765,000 sports car developed by using aerospace technology rather than traditional automotive design.

The low-slung Avtech WX3 has a one-piece body of Kevlar and carbon fiber, instrumentation found in fighter planes, and a 7.0-liter, 700-horsepower eight-cylinder engine. Wiegert sold 20 of his first model, the Vector W8, despite the $448,000 price tag.

The show began Tuesday and runs through Saturday.

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