Scientists from the University of California – Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology have unveiled a material that they claim is the lightest on Earth.
The material, which they call “ultralight metallic microlattice” is 99.99 percent air; the other 0.01 percent is a “lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1000 times thinner than a human hair.” The metal is 90 percent nickel, which proved to be the easiest material from which to construct the lattice.
At 1/100 the weight of Styrofoam, it’s light enough to sit atop a dandelion–and leave the seeds intact. Its ultra-low density also lends it another interesting property.
Bill Carter of HRL Laboratories explains what happens if “ultralight metallic microlattice” is dropped:
It’s sort of like a feather–it floats down, and its terminal velocity depends on the density,” he said. “It takes more than 10 seconds, for instance, for the lightest material we’ve made to fall if you drop it from shoulder height
So what are its uses? At present, there aren’t any–but scientists involved in the project believe that it could be of use to the aerospace industry for acoustic dampening and possibly in some battery applications.
Image: HRL Laboratories