Mind & Matter


World’s Lightest Material

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A new metal with a density of only 0.9 mg/cc. Image: Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC.

Scientists from UC Irvine and the California Institute of Technology recently announced the development of the world’s lightest material. Weighing in with a density of 0.9 mg/cc, or 100 times lighter than styrofoam, the new substance consists of 0.01 percent nickel phosphorous tubes and 99.99 percent air. This material tops the previous lightweight record holder, silica aerogel, which has a density of 1.1 mg/cc.

The researchers were inspired by architecture in creating the new metal, which is composed of a micro-structured lattice made of hollow tubes 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. “Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architecture,” said William Carter, manager of the architected materials group at UC Irvine’s HRL Laboratories. “We are revolutionizing lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the nano and micro scales.”

UCI engineer and principal investigator Lorenzo Valdevit added that “Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale. Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material.

The new substance, which can sit on top of a dandelion without adding visible weight, is intended to be used initially for battery electrodes as well as acoustic- and vibration-dampening applications.


Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Aneel Antony | Time: 10:42 PM Monday, January 16, 2012

    This material will suerly find use in filtering applications especialy water.

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.