The Lightest Material in the World

Despite my complaint to my children, the lightest material on Earth is not my wallet after a trip to the toy store. It's a new nickel-phosphorus "microlattice" cooked up by scientists.

Behold, the world's lightest material:

It actually consists of 99.99 percent air. The other 0.01 percent is made up of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness of 100 nanometers. That's 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.

To get technical about it, the density of the material is 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter. In comparison, the lightest sample of aerogel, the stuff that's been called "solid smoke," has a density of 1.1 mg/cc.

The microlattice is made through a process that's completely different from the "cooking" technique that gives rise to aerogel. The researchers start by setting up a matrix of polymer lattices, and then deposit thin films of nickel-phosphorus. When the polymer is etched away, tiny metal tubes are left behind in the shape of the lattice.
Aerogel is foamy stuff that makes a great insulator but chips off easily. In contrast, the highly ordered structure of the microlattice makes it strong and resilient.


Newest 3
Newest 3 Comments

A more interesting question/comment about this is its strength. Aerogels are quite strong, and have a number of other outstanding properties such as their utility as an insulator. It looks like this material (or "structure", since it seems to me more akin to miniaturized scaffolding) has a completely different set of pros and cons than aerogel so it greatly increases our palette of options when it comes to ultralite construction -- quite useful for aerospace and many other industries...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Yeah because lead is obviously lighter than this microlattice. /s

"Oh, your 300mph supercar isn't so fast, don't you know the earth is flying through space at 67,000mph?"

But alright, you are a very clever boy for pointing out the irrelevant-obvious.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Lightest Material in the World"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More