Aerospace manufacturer Boeing has created the world's lightest metal structure, which it claims is 99.99% hollow. The structure is so light that a sample can sit atop a dandelion. The revolutionary breakthrough claims to be 100 times lighter than Styrofoam and could be the future for aeronautical design.
The material, called Microlattice, is a 3D open-cellular polymer structure and is inspired by bones where the outside is solid but on the inside you find a mostly hollow, yet extremely strong and light structure. Microlattice is made up of interconnected hollow tubes, each with a wall 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.
Boeing released a video where we see scientists exhibit its lightness by effortlessly blowing it away, and it floats to the floor like a feather. While being lightweight, its smart structure enables it to compress so it's excellent at absorbing energy. In the video we also see the Microlattice, which is claimed to be one of the strongest and lightest materials known to science, being squashed and twisted then simply bouncing back to shape.
Sophia Yang, Research Scientist of Architected Materials at HRL Labs who worked with Boeing on the project, claims if wrapped around an egg the impact-absorbing properties of a Microlattice could protect it from cracking when dropped from 25 stories.
"One of the main applications that we've been looking into is structural components in aerospace," said Yang. The strength and lightweight nature of the material will allow aircraft to be far more fuel efficient by saving so much weight. Of course, being a material that can be blown away, don't expect an entire fuselage built from it (not ideal in crosswinds), rather it could replace more weighty metal components in aircraft, whether that's flooring, seat frames, or walls.