A team of US engineers say they have developed the world's lightest material which is one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam. The research has been carried out by HRL Laboratories, The California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Irvine.
The material has a unique 'micro-lattice' cellular architecture featuring interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness of just 100 nanometers, 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. A pioneering fabrication process allowed the team, led by HRL senior scientist Dr Alan Jacobsen, to make a material that consists of 99.99 percent open volume by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales.
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Dr Bill Carter, Manager of the Architected Materials Group at HRL said: “Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architectures. We are revolutionising lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the materials level and designing their architectures at the nano and micro scales.”
As the material's cellular structure enables unprecedented mechanical behaviour for metals, which includes complete recovery from compression exceeding 50 percent strain, the potential applications range from battery electrodes and catalyst supports to acoustic, vibration or shock energy damping.
The full results of the research can be read in the November 18 issue of Science.