In what amounts to a huge scientific achievement the world will forget about in a couple of days, esteemed nerd journal Science has published the exciting research conducted by California-based HRL Laboratories. The scientists involved have developed an ultra-lightweight metallic structure that can almost float in mid-air. That’s ‘almost.’ What’s astonishing about it is a new era of lightweight material for different products may result thanks to Dr. Schaedler and co.’s work.
The big brouhaha over this new metallic thing is precisely how light it is for something metallic. The material itself isn’t really a solid, but a microscopic lattice that not only absorbs great stress, but returns to its original form after being squeezed. These qualities guarantee that the multi-purpose material will enjoy have a variety of applications.
For a clearer grasp of how these lattices were made, it’s best to quote form the source material:
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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