Scientists create lightest material on earth

Scientists create lightest material on earth

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A team of scientists working in conjunction with the California Institute of Technology, HRL Laboratories, and the University of California have reportedly invented the world’s lightest material.

The material is comprised 99.99 percent of air alone and is a microlattice cellular architecture that is made from nickel. The team did so by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometre, micron and millimetre level. The material is only 100 nanometers thick. The material uses a cellular architecture fabricated from hollow tubes that supports a material structure, allowing the material to remain incredible flexible.

“The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness of 100 nanometres, 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” said Dr. Tobias Schaedler, who lead the project.

“Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale,” explained UCI mechanical and aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit, UCI’s principal investigator on the project. “Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material.”

The team of scientists admitted that they are unsure of exactly how the material will be used. The project was conducted under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Schaedler noted that the material is extraordinarily strong and shock-absorbent. It can reportedly compress by 50 percent and completely recover its shape, due, in part, to the fact that much of it is air. Scientists have suggested that the material could be used for battery electrodes and acoustic, vibration or shock energy absorption.

The research, which was published in the latest edition of the journal Science, claimed that the material is considered the lightest material on Earth. The material has been dubbed “ultralight metallic microlattice,” according to a statement from UC Irvine.

The following is a statement released by the University of Irvine:

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 – about one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam™. Their findings appear in the Nov. 18 issue of Science.
The new material redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture. The researchers were able to make a material that consists of 99.99 percent air by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales. “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.

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.

“Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale,” explained UCI mechanical and aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit, UCI’s principal investigator on the project. “Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material.”

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

William Carter, manager of the architected materials group at HRL, compared the new material to larger, more familiar edifices: “Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architecture. We are revolutionizing lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the nano and micro scales.”

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