Scientists Create ‘World’s Lightest Material’ Using Innovative Microlattice Structure

As the need to save fuel becomes more and more pressing, the demand for lightweight materials to manufacture vehicles and aircraft is seeing a proportional increase. A few years ago, Chinese researchers developed an exceedingly lightweight material known as graphene aerogel, which they claimed, was seven times lighter than air.

And now, in what is being touted as the latest breakthrough in material sciences, HRL laboratories has created a material that it says is the lightest in the world. The microlattice-structure-based material from HRL Laboratories, which is a joint investment by Boeing and General Motors, features an intricate network on hollow tubes that are one-thousandth the width of a human hair. This renders the material greater load-bearing capacity besides making it durable even for the most extreme operating environments.

Researchers who have worked on the project say that the microlattice structure is akin to the internal structure of our bones, which have surprisingly high load bearing capacities despite being mostly hollow.

The new lightweight material launched by HRL Laboratories features an open-weave structure and extremely thin microlattice. The material, say researchers, is 99.99% air. However, the load-bearing capacity of the new material comes from its intelligently designed interwoven tubes.

The new material might be making waves in the material sciences industry, but questions are still being raised about whether it is strong enough to be safely used in the aerospace industry. Based on the experiments and tests conducted by the team of researchers, the answer seems to be in the affirmative. The team that has developed the material says that it is resistant to high impact, can retain its shape on being compressed, and can support the heavy metals and plastics used in aircraft. This lends the material the much-desired attribute of absorbing shock or energy in an aircraft or vehicle.

In a promotional video released by Boeing, an engineer states that the material can effectively replace the current generation of denser and heavier materials used in aircraft manufacturing. This will up fuel efficiencies by making planes several times lighter.

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