Mental Floss

The World's Lightest Metal is 100 Times Lighter Than Styrofoam

Andrew LaSane

In 2011, scientists revealed a metal so light that it could sit atop a dandelion without crushing its delicate, fluffy seeds—and now we can finally see how it works. The microlattice material is 100 times lighter than Styrofoam and constructed of hollow tubes 1000 times thinner than a human hair. Last week, Boeing uploaded a video that shows how award-winning metal material is made, how its cellular structure compares to that of human bones, and how it could revolutionize the way a lot of things are built in the future.

Developed by scientists at the Boeing-owned HRL Laboratories, as well as researchers from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Irvine, microlattice has an open-cellular structure and is essentially 99.99 percent air. In the video above, one researcher compares it to bone: rigid on the outside and mostly hollow on the inside. Its structure gives the material ultra-low density, compression recovery, and energy-absorption qualities similar to rubber-like polymers. It's currently being studied and considered for use as a structural component for aerospace vehicles, in vibration damping, and in thermal insulation, among other applications. 

[h/t Inverse]

 99.99 percent