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HRL researchers develop the world’s lightest material with a density of 0.9 mg/cc, one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam.

Developed for the Defense Advansed Research Projects Agency (DARPA), this lightweight material uses “micro-lattice” cellular architecture allowing compression of exceeding 50% strain and recovering its form.

Application use for the material, explained by Dr. Bill Carter, manager of the Architected Materials Group at HRL, says “Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architectures.  We are revolutionizing lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the materials level and designing their architectures at the nano and micro scales.”

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This new material redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture. Using an innovative fabrication process developed by HRL senior scientist Dr. Alan Jacobsen, the team was able to make a material that consists of 99.99% open volume by designing the 0.01% solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales. “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness of 100 nanometers, 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler.

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