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 – about one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam™. Their findings appear in the Nov. 18 issue of Science.
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.