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    World’s Lightest Material

    A team of US engineers has created the world’s lightest material. It is so light in fact, that it can rest comfortably on a dandelion seed head as shown in the picture below.

    The new material rested on a dandelion

    The new material resting on a dandelion

    The substance is made out of tiny hollow metallic tubes arranged into a micro-lattice – a criss-crossing diagonal pattern with small open spaces between the tubes, which means in reality that the structure is 99.99% air. The researchers say the material is 100 times lighter than Styrofoam and has “extraordinarily high energy absorption” properties. “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” said lead author Dr Tobias Schaedler of the University of California, where the research was carried out along with the California Institute of Technology.

    The material is also very robust for its weight. To study its strength the team compressed it until it was half as thick. After removing the load the substance recovered 98% of its original height and resumed its original shape. The first time the stress test was carried out and repeated the material became less stiff and strong, but the team says that further compressions made very little difference.

    The engineers suggest that practical uses for the substance include thermal insulation, battery electrodes and products that need to dampen sound, vibration and shock energy. They added that the aerospace industry could eventually be one of the beneficiaries from this the new material.

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