Styrofoam is very lightweight, unless you compare it to the new micro-lattice cellular material developed by a team of researchers from UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories and Caltech. Compared to Styrofoam, this new material is 100 times less dense and is said to be the lightest material in the world. In fact, it is so lightweight that it can float on top of a dandelion without damaging the fluff.
It may be surprising to hear that this new material is made of metal (mostly nickel) given that it is so light. Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL explains that “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.” With this nanotechnology construction the material is 99.99% air, which is why it is so lightweight with a density of only 0.9 mg/cc.
Besides for low density, the unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture of this material delivers other exciting properties, such as extremely high energy absorption and full recovery from significant compression. There are many possible applications of this material including as a thermal insulator, battery electrode, catalyst support, or as a damper for shock, vibration, or acoustic energy.