REUTERS - A metal developed by a team of researchers from University of California at Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology is pictured resting on a dandelion fluff without damaging it
A metallic lattice of hair-thin pipes is now the lightest solid yet created — less dense than air, scientists revealed.
The strategy used to create these intricate structures could lead to revolutionary materials of extraordinary strength and lightness, including ones made of diamond, researchers added.
Ultra-lightweight materials such as foams are widely used in thermal insulation and to dampen sounds, vibrations and shocks. They can also serve as scaffolds for battery electrodes and catalytic systems.
The researchers began with a liquid photopolymer — a molecule that changes its properties when exposed to light. They shined patterns of ultraviolet light on this photopolymer, generating a three-dimensional lattice, and coated this structure with a thin film of metal — in this case, nickel-phosphorous alloy.
Next, Schaedler and his colleagues etched away the photopolymer with lye, leaving behind a lattice of hollow nickel-phosphorus struts each 100- to 500-microns wide, or one-to-five times the width of a human hair. The walls of these tubes ranged from 100 to 500 nanometers or billionths of a meter thick, or up to 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.
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