Subscribe to Make Magazine Today!

Light

Scientists invent lightest material on Earth. What now? @ latimes.com.

Scientists have invented a new material that is so lightweight it can sit atop a fluffy dandelion without crushing the little fuzzy seeds. It’s so lightweight, styrofoam is 100 times heavier.

It is so lightweight, in fact, that the research team consisting of scientists at UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories and Caltech say in the peer-reviewed Nov. 18 issue of Science that it is the lightest material on Earth, and no one has asked them to run a correction yet.

That’s light!

The material has been dubbed “ultralight metallic microlattice,” and according to a news release sent out by UC Irvine, it consists of 99.99% air thanks to its “microlattice” cellular architecture.

Ok makers, what would you do with this material?


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1271122757 John D Price III

    Depends on how strong it is…  My subscription to AAAS expired so I can’t log in and read the paper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=550362267 James Brown

    would like some information on durability and possible conductivity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1773030852 Rich Brunner

    I would say it might make a good core for a laminate.

  • http://twitter.com/davidharvey David Harvey

    Not to get all Sheldon here, but shouldn’t that read “least dense solid on earth”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=40602316 Charlie Martens

    I agree with John, it depends on how strong it is.

  • Anonymous

    As said, depends how strong it is.

    I’d be thinking aircraft.

  • Anonymous

    “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” lead author Tobias Shandler 
    — yep, that’s the trick.

    See also… http://blogs.nature.com/news/2011/11/the_eiffel_tower_of_microarchi.html
    …with a video of this stuff under compression.  Tell me that’s not amazing!

  • Anonymous

    That’s amazing! Why was my first thought “mithril”? :D

    … but yes, just because it’s lightweight doesn’t mean it’s usable. Strength and cost are just a couple a few factors you need to consider in order to see if it could ever be usable. Still, it’s never hurts having more materials to choose from. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=635646083 Nathaniel Quillin

    Structural components for RC airplanes/Helis/Quad copters not to mention the use for impact dampening on vehicles.

  • Computerchi Man

    Impress my kids by placing it on a fluffy dandelion. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.coppersmith Scott Coppersmith

    Since it’s metallic, maybe a lightweight battery is in its future……..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5OH72WXUBCYCH43WIMWZO5FBQY Joe

    Perhaps this new material will fulfill the long-sought-after dream of the Vacuum Balloon: a material light enough to float but strong enough to withstand the atmospheric pressure induced by a partial vacuum contained within.

  • Anonymous

    it actually is NOT the lightest MATERIAL on earth…it is the lightest STRUCTURE on earth it is made from metal…which is NOT light…it is the inovative STRUCTURE that makes it light for it’s volume….so..i am asking for a correction to the claim….

  • http://www.facebook.com/billiam.brown Billiam Brown

    Does anyone know how strong it is?

  • http://twitter.com/stevepoling stevepoling

    Presuming it has insulating powers commensurate with its mostly empty structure, I’d like to try it to in a hobo stove. Just form it into a shape to fit between two nested tin-cans. I’m also presuming the material would be sturdy enough to handle the jostling of backpacking.

  • Anonymous

    Space Elevator!!!