Business, Finance & Economics

Is it a bird, a plane... no, it's ultralight metallic microlattice

Science or science fiction?

American scientists have created a material light enough to "rest comfortably on a dandelion seed head without disturbing the fluffy, delicate structure of the plant," PC mag has reported, citing the Nov. 18 issue of Science.

The "ultralight metallic microlattice" was invented by researchers at UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories, and Caltech.

The material might come in use, for example, "in the aerospace industry, acoustic dampening, and maybe some battery applications," according to the LA Times.

The new material is 100 times lighter than styrofoam, the Times adds, with a density less than one-thousandth that of water.

Being lattice, its structure is 99.99 percent air, according to the research team that built it. In fact when dropped, the material behaved somewhat like a feather, floating to the ground, Carter told the LA Times.

"The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair," lead author Tobias Shandler of HRL said, according to the paper.

It is also very resilient — researchers said that when squashed to half its height, the material rebounded 98 percent of the way back.

The material seen resting on a dandelion seed head in the picture above is 90 percent nickel, according to the Times, but Bill Carter, manager of the "architected" materials group at HRL, told the newspaper that it can be made out of other materials as well.