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Almost Lighter Than Air

Posted on: 11/16/2011
A team of researchers from UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories, and the California Institute of Technology have developed the world’s lightest material, with a density of 0.9 mg/cc. That’s about one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam. The metal is so light, in fact, that it can sit atop a dandelion fluff without damaging it.

The new material has been developed with a unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture, consisting of 99.99 percent air through the design of its 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales. The lattice consists of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.

The material’s architecture allows unprecedented mechanical behavior for a metal, including complete recovery from compression exceeding 50 percent strain and extraordinarily high energy absorption.

Developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the novel material could be used for battery electrodes and acoustic, vibration or shock energy absorption.

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