Researchers Develop World’s Lightest Material

World’s Lightest Metal

Mechanical & aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit and fellow researchers at HRL Labs and Caltech created the world’s lightest metal – so light that it can sit atop dandelion fluff without damaging it. Credit: Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC

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 “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.

7 Comments on "Researchers Develop World’s Lightest Material"

  1. Markus Demitrius | November 24, 2011 at 6:33 am | Reply

    I’m awestruck by what science is (and can be) capable of and love reading about new discoveries and ideas.

    BUT, it’s my firm belief that any nanotech experimentation into the realm of self-replication (which this is not) should be conducted off-planet. Mistakes happen, and I suspect there are nearly as many former life-bearing planets in our galaxy that have turned to sludge as there are runaway-greenhouse planets. IMHO.

    RESEARCH is what drove the USA to world dominance a century ago, and we CAN do it again if we can somehow convince the many religious voters that the GOP is not working in their best interest (unless they’re rich).

    • you are a political jackass

    • Wow. I can’t believe you turned that political… It all made sense until you went down the “religious nuts are the cause of all that is bad” road.

      Actually, the “GOP” has, historically speaking, been the party to support initiatives such as NASA and other research areas. The Democrat party is the one that scoffs at this kind of stuff and wants to spend money on social causes, instead.

  2. Leave the USA out of this, science is a world community it does not end at your borders.

    This is exciting technology, I’m really curious how much stress this structure can handle. If it’s strong enough it could lead to lighter weight aircraft and whatnot.

    • @Philldapill:

      Your remarks about GOP support of science doesn’t seem to have aged so well, has it? Did you ingest your daily dose of bleach yet?

  3. Why stop there? Keep it up. Let’s shoot for 100 times lighter than air.

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