A team of researchers from the University of California Irvine (UCI, Irvine, Calif., USA), HRL Laboratories (Malibu, Calif., USA) and the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, Calif., USA) developed the world’s lightest material – with a density of 0.9 mg/cc – about one hundred times lighter than expanded polystyrene and lighter than Styrofoam, aerogels, and even carbon nanotubes, which makes carbon nanotubes seem heavyset at 1.3-mg/cc.
The new material features a “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 human hair.
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, ie If you were to squash the material more than halfway it would just rebound back into its original shape..!!
“Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale,” explained UCI mechanical and aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit, UCI’s principal investigator on the project. “Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material.”