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WORLD'S LIGHTEST METAL ON SHOW

14-10-2015
by 
in 

Boeing, the world's largest aerospace company, has finally unveiled the world’s lightest metal, created by its researchers a few years ago.

The company has released a new video demonstrating the metal’s unique properties.

Called microlattice, the material is 100 times lighter than styrofoam but is as rigid as metal.

Microlattice was inspired by the structure of human bones, which are very rigid on the outside but mostly hollow on the inside. This means they can't be easily crushed, but are lightweight enough for us to carry around all day. 

The new Boeing metal mimics this, and despite its rigid exterior, it has a 3D open-cellular polymer structure, which means its structure is 99.99 percent air.

The lattice in the metal is made up of interconnected hollow metal tubes, constructed from nickel, in the case of the prototype.

Each of these tubes has a wall thickness of just 100 nanometres, which is 1,000 times thinner than human hair.

These open cells in the structure give microlattice huge compression potential, which means it can absorb a great deal of energy.

In the new video, Sophia Yang, a research scientist at HRL Laboratories (a joint Boeing venture), explains that the microlattice could be used in something like the egg drop challenge, to protect an egg being dropped from 25 storeys with very little material required.

By comparison, you'd need to wrap an egg in around a metre of bubble wrap to keep it safe when dropped the same distance.

That means that it could help Boeing build aeroplanes that are significantly lighter, but just as tough, as today's models.

"In the future the material could help Boeing save a lot of weight make aeroplanes more fuel efficient," Yang explains.

HRL laboratories also conducts R&D for General Motors, so it is possible the material may also be used in automobiles in the future.

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