How cool would it be if I could give you absolute, undeniable evidence that aliens exist and even live among us? Well, I can’t, but what I can tell you is that there is a new record for the world’s lightest material. Supposedly it is called a micro-latice structure, based on its chemical composition. The guys from The California Institute of Technology and HRL Laboratories developed this cool concept and turned it into a reality.
One really cool part of this structure is that it is unusually strong, able to recover from a force that puts about 50% strain onto the material, something that would usually just crush such a light material. Also it is almost 100 times lighter than Stryofoam, try to imagine that! It is able to be this light and yet strong because of its super low density, 0.9 mg/cc, basically it is super airy. They create this material using tons of mini-tubes in a system, so they can create it in different cube or rectangular prism shapes, and then mold it however they want. To me it almost looks like a perfect game of Jenga.
Interestingly enough, the previous owner of the title “lightest material in the world” was referred to as liquid smoke, or the boring scientific name multi-walled carbon nanotube aerogel, and had a density of 4 mg/cc. That means the new material is less than 1/4th the density of the previous one. Get this, the currently un-named material is 99.99 percent open volume, those tube-like items in the picture are actually hollow and the wall of them consists of just 100 nanometers of material. That’s around 1,000 times as thin as a human hair, which is why this substance is being classified around the world as a scientific anomaly, even the rocket scientists in our world can’t figure out how this thing works! In the end, this material is going to be used by DARPA, one of our government’s technological task forces, and possibly in other consumer items. Possibly being used in battery electrodes, or even in acoustics as a preventative measure towards vibration, this material is going to see a lot of use, as it is so handy.
It seems they actually got the idea from fairly old, and modern, architecture:
Dr. Bill Carter, manager of the Architected Materials Group at HRL, lays out the vision for these micro-lattice materials by drawing parallels to large structures: “Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architectures. We are revolutionizing lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the materials level and designing their architectures at the nano and micro scales.”
Via: HRL Laboratories