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Is "Roswell metal" at all a possible material?

  1. Feb 21, 2015 #1
    In stories regarding the "Roswell UFO crash", there are claims of alien metal foil that (depending on who you ask! :) ) you couldn't cut with a knife, couldn't tear it by hand, and which you could crumple up, and when released from your hand, it would unfold again to a nice, smooth sheet.

    Now, disregarding the dubious provenance of these "UFO" claims, is it at all physically possible to create a real material with these properties, and if not, why not? I notice that there are "shape memory alloy" or "memory metals" which are somewhat similar in that they can return to their original shape after significant distortion, but it looks like they require an external heat source to 'uncrumple'.
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  3. Feb 21, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2016
  4. Feb 23, 2015 #3


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    Early high altitude balloons were made from 12um Mylar film. The surface was metallised with 0.2um aluminium so they would reflect radar, or in the case of Project Echo, microwave communication signals. Mylar film is BoPET, you probably know how hard it is to crush, crumple or tear a soft drink bottle made from ordinary PET. That explains the reports of alien metal films.
    See; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Echo
  5. Jul 17, 2016 #4
    I believe metalized boPet does not have shape memory at room temperature while the Roswell material is always described as instantly returning to its original flat shape. Further, metalized boPet seems to be able to hold a crease, while the Roswell foil would not on its own hold any crease but magically return to its original shape. Correct me if I'm wrong. Jerry Kroth
  6. Jul 17, 2016 #5


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    Welcome to PF.
    It is not possible to know you are wrong until the correct interpretation of the evidence becomes available.

    There is zero reliable evidence of the mythical “Roswell Metal”, or of it's physical characteristics.
    The number of possible interpretations is inversely proportional to the amount and reliability of the available evidence.
    If there are an infinite number of interpretations, any one selected interpretation has a zero probability of being right.

    You have not necessarily shown that “Roswell Metal” is possible. You may only have shown that in 1947, amateur reports of the properties of the novel material then used to make weather balloons, were unreliable.

    I believe that metallised BoPET is the best guess for the balloon material observed and reported in 1947.
    Do you have a better suggestion ?
  7. Jul 17, 2016 #6
    Yes, BoPet cannot obtain shape memory at room temperature. Better options are Nitinol, some variations of which may have shape memory at room temperature.

    I actually held a strange material in my hands in 1965 (I was teaching 5th grade). It had the following characteristics: paper thin, silvery-gray, slightly elastic, about 5 X 5 inches, couldn't puncture it with a teachers compass (the metal tip, remember?), it was light as a feather, and if you crumpled it, it would not hold a crease. As soon as you let it go from trying to squeeze it into a ball, it magically opened up and resumed its flat appearance with no creases, in about 2 seconds. It strongly resembles the material the witnesses at Roswell described. I've been looking for a terrestrial alternative and mylar (Bopet) will hold a crease. Kevlar doesn't have shape memory to my knowledge; checked out elastomers and polymers, but nothing corresponds well. Nitinol is the best candidate, but there are problems with that too. Still puzzled. I've written about 35 materials scientists and about 59% say they do not have a viable candidate. Wish I could remember the kid in my class who brought that to me.

    Any suggestions on what I was holding in 1965 I'd appreciate it. I have an open mind on all options, sorry to say. Jerry Kroth
  8. Jul 17, 2016 #7


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    The material you were shown in 1965 could have been Nitinol foil. If you search on eBay for “nitinol foil” you will find 0.12mm foil is available at a cost of US$5 per square inch. The “Roswell metal” of 1947 cannot have been Nitinol because Nitinol was not invented until 1959.

    In 1941, Whinfield and Dickson developed and patented PET in Britain. The PET patents were sold to ICI who then shared them with Dupont until 1952. A development, BoPET later called Mylar was patented by Dupont in 1952. Electrical capacitors made from metallised PET film first became widely available in 1951.

    So I correct my earlier posts. The 1947 Roswell balloon was most likely to have been a metallised PET balloon. It was not a BoPET balloon. BoPET = Mylar balloons became widely used, but could not have been built before 1952.
  9. Jul 17, 2016 #8
    Actually I ordered nitnol foil and expect it next week, and I also ordered a sample pack of Kevlar, and then I can compare my memories with it. Thank you for your considered response. However, I have heard that metalliset PET, BoPet and Mylar did not have shape memory in 1965; now since I am not a physicist, let me explain what I "think" is shape memory: it means that if you crushed the material, it would open back up and return to its original shape without any creases or dents or folds of any kind.That is exactly what I had in my hand in 1965. So please check again. Do any of the materials you have recommended have the following: shape memory at room temperature, cannot be penetrated with a needle or metal tip, will not retain any crease or dents, is somewhat elastic, is silvery-gray in appearance, and cannot be cut with 3 varieties of sharp teacher-scissors. Let me know your best candidate in 1965 that meets those conditions. Jerry Kroth
  10. Jul 18, 2016 #9


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    Shape-memory can be induced in PET by the use of a crosslinker such as Maleic anhydride.

    It was not specified that the material needs two bi-stable states. A thin sheet of Kevlar fibre mesh, rubber impregnated and with a metallised surface would meet the observed requirements.

    Without bi-stability, the material would make a simple elastic spring. The thing about a shape-memory material is that it must be triggered by something before it will return to a previous shape.

    The advantage of the shape-memory polymers over shape-memory alloys is that light controlled and electro-active SMPs are available.
  11. Jul 18, 2016 #10
    We seem to be getting somewhere with the comment "Shape-memory can be induced in PET by the use of a crosslinker such as Maleic anhydride. "

    Now I have a few questions. If that is so, then is it true that would likely reproduce all my original observations: returns to its original flat shape without dents or creases (in about 2 seconds by the way and at room temperature), cannot be punctured or cut, slightly elastic, paper thin, and slivery-gray. So, back to 1965. Do you think this crosslinker process was in evidence then? Secondly, is there a product name I could research to learn more about this material? Thirdly, where do you think the little girl's father in my class (in Wayne Mich) actually worked? My guess was Willow Run research labs (10 miles away), but it could have been Dupont, Dow, or some other spot, except that Dupont seemed to be about 45 miles away and not a likely spot. I don't have any Michigan places for Dow. Interesting detective work. Most important of these questions is what was the name of the 1965 material and why haven't I ever seen it again. Would have made a great shirt, a wonderful roofing material, and I can think of lots of uses for it, but I've never seen it again. Jerry
  12. Jul 18, 2016 #11
    Forgot to add two things: I'm not claiming this is Roswell UFO foil other than to say the properties I observed have been observed by these UFO folks. I'm simply reporting my 1965 observations. I've contacted about 29 different Materials Scientists. One said (regarding your Kevlar observations) that Kevlar requires a few days before it returns to its original shape. Another said Nitinol will not display shape memory unless heated. My material returned to its original shape in like 2 seconds. I stabbed it as hard as I could with a teacher's metal tipped compass and it just dented and then magically the dent disappeared. Let me know more about "PET by the use of a crosslinker such as Maleic anhydride. " That seems to be the best lead so far. Also I didn't try heating it, but one of the UFO witnesses put it in an oven at 300 degrees and it neither melted nor did it retain heat; it just remained at room temperature and you could remove it from the oven with your bare hands. Jerry
  13. Jul 18, 2016 #12


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    You should read the page; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape-memory_polymer#Chemically_crosslinked_SMPs
    Then follow the references.

    If your material returned without a trigger then it was elastic, not bistable. A rubber foam will take a few seconds to recover it's shape when released.
    The point I made was that a combination of three things, a sheet of rubber reinforced with woven Kevlar, then coated with a metal film will meet all the requirements. There need be no shape-memory material involved. Why do you need shape-memory ?

    Do you really believe that miracle material story? I assign zero credibility to observations reported by UFO witnesses. They never have hard evidence and therefore must always have zero credibility.
  14. Jul 18, 2016 #13
    I"m afraid I don' t know the difference between shape memory, and superelasticity. Frankly, I"d like to know the term one would use to describe a material that immediately recovers from dents and creases (at room temperature) so I am using the proper term.

    My tentative conclusion from this discussion is that you cannot name a particular or specific product or brand that produces all the effects I observed in 1965. True?

    I think my next step will be to contact the authors of the papers described in the wikipedia article you cited on crosslinked SMPs.

    So far in my journey, I presented these properties to 29 scientists. Current responses show 61 percent say that don't know what it is; 18% say it is a form of Nitinol, and the remainder are split between various things, but point mainly in the direction of polymers and elastomers.

    If you get any other ideas let me know

  15. Jul 18, 2016 #14


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    Shape-memory materials are a distraction in your search because they are bistable and need a trigger to start the reversal process. Your observed material did not need a trigger, so it was not bistable, it was just bendy like rubber. When rubber is stretched or compressed it changes temperature. The energy that flows as a result of the temperature changes slows down the recovery.

    I think the term “compliant” would do for a start. Neoprene wetsuit material will recover it's shape. So will silicon rubber.

    What makes you think what you observed was a single product ? You may have observed something over 50 years ago but it is also possible that your memory is playing tricks on you. You may have dreamt part of it, or you may have been psychotic at some time. I should not have to name any one brand or product. I have told you how to make it from three available components.

    Why delay your progress and waste their time when you could use wikipedia and google ?
    You will find more information more quickly by using google.

    Why are you pursuing this search ? Are you somehow fixated on finding a past memory ?
    Do you have a real application for such a material ?
    If you have an application then search that application on the web.
  16. Jul 18, 2016 #15
    Well, of my now 30 materials scientists (the sample keeps growing) who have replied, 60% say they have no idea what the mystery material was, 17% believe it was a form of Nitinol (NiTi), although the majority of these forms need heat to return to their original shape (but there might have been a couple forms in 1965 which qualify), 11% believe it is an elastomer or polymer or "thermoplastic elastomer" and then 10% (3 people, yourself included) suggest is some form of PET or boPET, but without designating any brand names in their responses. A few miscellaneous speculations from this sample include Flexinol and Kaplor, both of which I have learned would not meet the criteria.

    Anyway, I thank you for your time and attention to the issue. If something comes to you and you can send me some kind of product that existed in 1965,I"d love to hear from you. It would be great for magic shows, raincoats, etc. As far as the Roswell mythology goes, I haven't learned searching in that direction. You may be interested, though, in the following table http://roswellproof.homestead.com/debris2_memory_foil.html

    Jerry Kroth
  17. Jul 18, 2016 #16


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    That //roswellproof. table illustrates how unreliable the information is that you are trying to work with.
    If you build your house on sand ...
    You did not answer my questions. Does that mean you are a UFO nut ?

    The balloon that came down at Roswell in 1947 was not made from metal. The reported observations of the material's physical properties are unreliable, but that is what made it such a good story for the conspiracy nuts. Without that exaggeration it would not have attracted the undue attention it has since received. The Loch Ness Monster fable has similar characteristics.
  18. Jul 18, 2016 #17
    Not a UFO nut. Just curious about a mystery that I cannot explain. I'm open to all possibilities until I see some tangible proof one way or another. Right now it is just speculation and hypotheses (your ideas included). I have ordered some Nitinol, Kevlar samples, and we'll see if they can duplicate my half-century old astonishment.

  19. Jul 19, 2016 #18
    The suggestion that this was PET or "BoPET (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate), a polyester film made from stretchedpolyethylene terephthalate (PET) is not a likely candidate. This is the material I once suspected my student's father was working on in 1965. It was used in Project ECHO. However, if you look at the material close up, it clearly wrinkles and holds its creases. What I held in my hands would never have done that. See the following URL
    http://broom02.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=PET film (biaxially oriented)&item_type=topic

    Still hoping to hear from other members of the physics community which can describe the material I held in my hands in 1965: silvery-gray in color, if you crushed it into a ball, it immediately returned to its original flat shape, would not hold a crease, slightly elastic, couldn't puncture it, the thickness of a piece of stationery, couldn't cut it all at room temperature. Despite the fact that this material corresponds to the so-called Roswell flying saucer foil, I'm looking for terrestrial answers; the question is three-fold, what was I holding in 1965 (brand names please), who manufactured it (besides aliens) and why haven't I seen it again in 50 years? jerrykroth@yahoo.com

    I'm a retired psych professor.
  20. Jul 19, 2016 #19


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    Heat sink gaskets for power semiconductors are cut from a thin silicon rubber sheet.
    It has the flexibility characteristics you reported seeing in 1965.
    eBay ' 0.5mm Silicone Thermal Pad Sheet '

    You are unlikely to find out about your 1965 material in this thread because it was not a shape-memory alloy.
  21. Jul 19, 2016 #20


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    Also available made of Kapton. The samples I've seen are a deep Orange color but rather indestructible.
  22. Jul 19, 2016 #21


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    How good and sharp were the scissors?
    Some materials such as a rubber sheet will spread the scissor blades apart and become lodged within.

    Two strips of Silver duct tape pressed back to back, are difficult to poke through, difficult to cut with a knife, difficult to cut with scissors, will return to a no crease flatness after crumpling, is slightly elastic, and is light.
  23. Jul 20, 2016 #22
    It is impossible for metal to unfold itself into a perfect sheet...
  24. Jul 20, 2016 #23


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    The truth of that statement is dependent on the definition of "perfect".

    Those who say “it can't be done” should not interrupt those who are doing it.
    Nitinol sheet does a pretty good job of recovering. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel_titanium
  25. Jul 24, 2016 #24
    Kapton occurs after 1965 to the best of my knowledge

  26. Jul 24, 2016 #25
    I believe Kapton was invented a few years after 1965 when I first encountered this material. Jerry
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