Nanomaterial is world's lightest


A new material developed by scientists at UC Irvine is described as the "world's lightest material," so light it can perch atop a dandelion clock without disturbing the seeds. The material is documented in the Nov 18 Science.

The new material redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “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 a human hair,” said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.

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.

Multidisciplinary team of researchers develop world’s lightest material (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Image: Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC)

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  1. In the automotive industry of the future, a car will weight as much as its engine and power source; would absorb impact and restore to its original shape with no harm to passenger or driver’s phisical and financial well being. How cool is that added there could be climate control systems inside those tubes?

  2. Shouldn’t we use this kind of stuff for wind energy?

    For example, extremely huge windmill blades that take very little wind to turn them because they don’t weigh shit? 

    1. That extremely huge blade that don’t weigh shit would probably not be able to handle the stresses involved to rotate the turbine shaft. Most likely tear themselves to pieces. 

      1. That extremely huge blade that don’t weigh shit would probably not be able to handle the stresses involved to rotate the turbine shaft. Most likely tear themselves to pieces.

        From what I understand, this material (while light) is also very strong.  Also, it can be reinforced to some extent and still be lighter than current materials.

    2. The weight of the materials isn’t what makes a windmill hard to turn.  The load on it makes it that much harder to turn.  If you have a motor that draws a megawatt including all losses to whatever inefficiencies in the system you need to be able to push the windmill hard enough to create that million watts.  If you cant, no matter how hard the wind is blowing it just won’t turn much.

      1. The weight of the materials isn’t what makes a windmill hard to turn.

        Sure it does.  The heavier it is, the more friction at the base, etc. of the low speed shaft; hence, harder to turn.  Lighter means less friction and more efficient use of the energy from the wind.

    1. I’m not sure I’d trust an airplane built out of this stuff.  It may be irrational but I’m imagining much heavier turbulence in any kind of crosswind if the plane is so much lighter.

  3. So this will be just like aerogel?  Useful in specific laboratory settings, but cost prohibitive to the real world at large?

    It’s like all the cool stuff I hear about carbon nanotubes and how they will revolutionize the world, except we can’t crank them out easily and cheaply.

  4. “by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales.”

    but write-up makes it sound like they designed at the ever-popular thickness-of-a-human-hair scale.

  5. It is probably expensive to make right now so it also sets a new record for “getting the least for the most money”

  6. I have no idea what this article is about, so here’s a picture of a dandelion with a wafer on it’s head.

  7. “perch atop a dandelion clock” — what is a dandelion “clock”?

    You mean that is what you call a dandelion seed head? Why have I never heard this?

    Mind blown by my own obliviousness — “clock”? Who knew?

  8. Looking ahead, to when this stuff is in widespread use…  will there be problems when this material ends up discarded, in the trash, in the environment?  Does the tininess of the particles mean they will slip through water filters or air filters, so we’ll end up breathing this stuff? 

  9. I made a huge empty box out of plywood. If I measure the amount of wood used vs. the total volume of the outside of the box, I’ve got a material that’s 99.999% air. That’s 10 times better than these guys.

    Can I haz newz artical?

  10. you are right that the blades need strength, quite a bit of it.  most modern blades are of composite designs (carbon/fibreglass/resin outers).  with some research into collapsing molds for hollow centers (less dense than the above material).  see wikipedia blade design for more info

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