A Metal Almost As Light As Air
Researchers in the US have broken the world record for the lightest structural material. The metal-based micro lattice structures are significantly less dense than the rarest aerogels and other ultra-light foams, while exhibiting high strength and an unexpectedly high ability to absorb energy and recover shape after compression- yes! These metals have memories. The materials could find use in a range of applications, from aircraft structural components to acoustic damping and shock absorption.
The structure is so fine that it is 99.99 per cent air, and around 10 per cent less dense than the lightest aerogels. Intriguingly, the micro engineered structure has remarkably different properties from the bulk alloy. The bulk alloy is usually very brittle, but when the lattice structure is compressed, the hollow tubes do not snap but rather buckle like a drinking straw with a high degree of elasticity.
Ultra-lightweight materials are an incredibly cool area of materials science, bringing us crazy substances like aerogel. And now, for the first time, scientists have produced a metal that’s so light it can balance on the fluff of a dandelion.
This stuff weighs less than one milligram per cubic centimeter, completely bounces back after compression, and is made of a repeating lattice. It has incredible potential for use as thermal insulation; acoustic, vibration or shock dampening; energy absorption and recovery; and electronic parts.