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, making it around 100 times lighter than Styrofoam . Despite being 99.99 percent open volume, the new material boasts impressive strength and energy absorption, making it potentially useful for a range of applications.
The 0.01 percent of the material that isn’t air consists of a micro-lattice of interconnected hollow nickel-phosphorous tubes with a wall thickness of 100 nanometers – or 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. These tubes are angled to connect at nodes to form repeating, three-dimensional asterisk-like cells.
The new material draws parallels with large structures, such as the Eiffel Tower, which is incredibly light and weight-efficient thanks to its hierarchical lattice design. As an illustration of just how efficient such a design is, if the 7,300 tonnes of metal used in the Eiffel Tower were melted down it would fill just six centimeters (2.4 in) of the structure’s 125 m2 (1,345 square ft) base.
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