Boeing has announced the creation of the world’s lightest metal to date: microlattice.
Boeing has developed the lightest metal on earth as a result of research that produced its first results in 2011. It has taken four years for the work of scientists at the University of California and the California Institute of Technology to be consolidated into something more concrete. It is the aerospace company which has been the driving force behind the development, which could be used to build lighter, more efficient aircrafts in the future.
99.99% of microlattice is composed of air. This proportion is incredible by anyone’s standards, and gives the material an enviable lightness, making it the lightest metal in the world. Boeing has put ever greater impetus into the development of aeronautical applications, as research has yielded new and increasingly satisfactory results.
The world’s lightest metal has a three-dimensional polymer-type structure. It consists of an interconnected framework of hollow tubes in a diagonal pattern. It is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair and the overall effect is that of a bone structure.
The outside of a bone is very rigid, which makes the whole structure difficult to break. However, inside it is porous, which is what makes it light. Microlattice differs from bone tissue insofar as it is flexible, and is thus capable of absorbing a large amount of energy by becoming compressed.
The material was developed on the back of research whose first results were announced in 2011. The initial prototypes of microlattice were made using nickel and phosphorus alloys. From that point onwards, Boeing put its full weight behind directing the research, with its focus on the production of a metal which would enable it to build lighter aircrafts, and hence reduce the enormous amount of fuel used in flights.
Microlattice is 100 times lighter than extruded polystyrene, popularly known as Styrofoam, since that is the brand name that the company which manufactures the material, Dow Chemical, gave it. Its applications are primarily in the construction industry. As for microlattice, its uses will be geared more toward components in the aerospace industry. The lighter the aircraft, the less energy they will need and the less fuel they will consume. Moreover, if fuel needs are reduced, tanks will not need to be so full, which will reduce the aircraft’s weight even further.