Scientists are breaking new ground in the eternal quest to create ever lighter materials – this time forging a metal so weightless it can sit atop a dandelion.
Yahoo News reports that the team of U.S. researchers from University of California at Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology has developed the metal, which is about 100 times lighter than Styrofoam. They constructed a metallic lattice of hair-thin pipes to show off their latest creation, beating out the previously lightest substances in the world, aerogels. They can have densities of 1 mm per cc, making them less dense than air at room temperature and sea level.
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The work is significant because the strategy employed by the team could lead to the development of more materials of extraordinary strength and lightness, according to detailed findings in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal Science. Up until now ultra-lightweight creations, like aerogels, were limited because their structures are classed as random – in laymen’s terms too weak to withstand pressure. But these latest low-density metallic lattices have orderly structures, meaning they possess higher levels of stiffness, strength and conductivity. Apparently the scientists took some inspiration from, believe it or not, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
“Our vision is to revolutionize lightweight materials by adopting principles of architecture into their design,” researcher Tobias Schaedler, lead scientist at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, Calif., told InnovationNewsDaily. “If you look at the Eiffel Tower or Golden Gate Bridge, they’re incredibly light and strong for their size by virtue of their architecture — the Eiffel Tower is taller and lighter than the pyramids because of its design,” Schaedler explained. “We want to achieve the same thing these modern buildings achieve by working on the structures of materials.”
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