Scientists Unveil "World's Lightest Material"

Earnest Cavalli

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Jun 19, 2008
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Scientists Unveil "World's Lightest Material"



Finally, a metal you can stack on top of a dandelion puff.

Researchers working at UC Irvine have developed a new, as-yet-unnamed material that they claim is both incredibly light and incredibly strong.

From the official press release:

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.

Did it just get too sciencey in here? Project engineer Lorenzo Valdevit puts it in more simple, utilitarian terms.

"Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale," Valdevit says. "Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material."

Unsurprisingly, the US military is interested in this new material's potential uses in shock absorption and the production of next-generation batteries.

Most impressively however, is that image above. That would be the new material sitting atop the hyper-fragile reproductive system of a dandelion puff. If you've ever been a child you'll know how little it takes to dislodge those puff poofs into a cloud of float-poof.

Additionally, poof poofity poof poof.

Source: UC Irvine [http://today.uci.edu/news/2011/11/nr_lightmetal_111117.php]

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Tigurus

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Apr 14, 2009
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Thats...pretty damn impressive.
Still, I bet that new metal is sad because it can't dislodge all those puffs into the air. :(
 

Tiger Sora

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Aug 23, 2008
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Finally a way to land our microscopic troops atop the dreaded dandelion fortresses of evil. Soon those weeds will be eradicated. Muhahaha.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

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May 15, 2010
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Now... that is impressive and if it is strong enough, could revolutionize the way we build things. If its shock absorbant enough, and the process can be replicated using extremely strong materials, think about how we can solve earthquake damage problems!
Serious here... there's a huge potential in that nanoscale building idea. I could also be jumping the shark but...
 

FrostyChick

Little Miss Vampire.
Jul 13, 2010
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At first I was like...
OMG, OMG, OMG!!! AWESOME, AWESOME AWESOME!!!

Then I read this.
Earnest Cavalli said:
Additionally, poof poofity poof poof.
I died laughing.
 

Rutskarn

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Feb 20, 2010
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Huh. That would actually be my university. I knew we did something well besides LARPs and apathy.
 

Uber Evil

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Can I just say that I love the news people on this site, especially Grey and Earnest. They make me laugh, or at the least smile, at many of their posts.
 

Beryl77

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I've never been a child, so can anyone tell me how much it takes to dislodge those puff poofs into a cloud of float-poof?

OT: That is damn impressive and amazing. I really hope we can put that to a good use.
 

BehattedWanderer

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Jun 24, 2009
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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.
Wow. That is some nice recovery. Elastic deformation like that in a metal is pretty rare. So, awesome. And hooray for nanomaterials.
 

McMullen

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Mar 9, 2010
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Inb4 "OMG, scientists wasting money on pointless things"

Hm. So on the one hand it's close to the density of aerogel, but it's metallic. I wonder what its insulation properties are.
 

samsonguy920

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Abandon4093 said:
How much does it cost to manufacture though? As unbelievably impressive as this is, realistically it needs to be fairly cheap to make for it to be used in construction or anything else for that matter.

It's applications are conceivably limitless, but if it's expensive. I can't see a lot of people picking it up.
Everything starts out really expensive upon conception. It is going to be a few more years before mass production occurs, as they first have to figure out how to mass produce it. And before that, there has to be enough interest to mass produce it.
And mass production is what will make it affordable.
Either case, I think there is going to be interest in this, especially once it gets wider demonstration to the private sector.
amaranth_dru said:
Now... that is impressive and if it is strong enough, could revolutionize the way we build things. If its shock absorbant enough, and the process can be replicated using extremely strong materials, think about how we can solve earthquake damage problems!
Serious here... there's a huge potential in that nanoscale building idea. I could also be jumping the shark but...
You aren't. There has actually been a lot of work and experimenting done since before 2000 on using nanostructures to make buildings more stable. This is going to represent the great leap forward that engineers need. And I imagine this alone is a tiny percentage of the number of potential uses.
Considering its shock absorption, I imagine it will even have a place in armor design, as well.