World's Lightest Material

It’s about one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam, with a density of 0.9 mg/cc (Milligram per Cubic Centimeter) and has extraordinarily high energy absorption properties. This is a new type of metal which is 99.9 percent air, as show in the image it can sit on top of a dandelion fluff without crushing it. This pioneering research was carried out by a research engineering team at the University of California, Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology.

According to lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL Laboratories, “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,”.  As a result of this material’s unique micro lattice cellular architecture, researchers were able to make a material that consists of 99.99 percent air and 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales.

This allows un-parallel properties for a metal which enables full recovery from compression exceeding 50 percent strain and extraordinarily high energy absorption. Thanks to these unique properties it will open a new window to a next generation batteries and shock absorbers.

As UCI mechanical and aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit explained “Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale,” And he continues “Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material.”

According to engineers, for practical applications this metal can be used thermal insulation, battery electrodes and products that need to dampen sound, vibration and shock energy. This project is developed for the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

Information Source:  University of California

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