World’s Lightest Material Takes Hits Like a Champ

[Photo: Dan Little, HRL Laboratories]
A group of scientists have created a new metallic material that they claim is the lightest in the world--lighter than Styrofoam, aerogels, and even carbon nanotubes.

The new material is the result of a collaborative effort between HRL; The California Institute of Technology; and the University of California, Irvine. The material’s lightness comes from its extremely low density of 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter (mg/cc), which makes carbon nanotubes seem heavyset at 1.3-mg/cc.

The structure of the material is made of 100-nanometer-thick hollow tubes formed in a micro-lattice process. The material is 99.99% open volume, meaning it is mostly air, and is extremely resilient to impact and shock absorbent. If you were to squash the material more than halfway it would just rebound back into its original shape.

The technology was developed DAPRA for a litany of applications including “battery electrodes, catalyst supports, and acoustic, vibration or shock energy damping.” But I could imagine seeing this material make its way into hard drive or laptop saving impact technology, earthquake-proofing buildings, or electronics cases.

Self-buffing car bumpers? Yes, please.

[Science Magazine and HRL via Popular Science]

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