According to a new short film produced by Boeing, microlattice is the lightest metal ever made. The material is 99.99 percent air by volume, rendering it light enough to rest atop a dandelion seed head, but it is remarkably strong and resilient.
Metallic microlattice isn’t exactly brand new. In fact, the material was named one of 10 world-changing innovators for 2012 by Popular Mechanics.
At that time, Popular Mechanicsdescribed microlattice as “100 times lighter than styrofoam packing peanuts” and suggested that it might find uses in the automotive and aerospace industries as well as medical applications.
Now the lightest metal ever is back in the news thanks to a Boeing-produced short film, which you can watch below.
Metallic microlattice was developed by HRL Laboratories, which is the former research arm of Hughes Aircraft. Yes, the same Hughes Aircraft founded by infamous eccentric Howard Hughes. HRH Laboratories is now jointly owned by Boeing and General Motors, which explains the Boeing connection.
In the Boeing-produced short film, HRL Laboratories Sophia Yang explains what makes metallic microlattice so special.
Yang refers to microlattice as a “3D open-cellular polymer structure” and compares it to the basic composition of bones. While the outer structure of a bone is rigid and solid, the interior is made up of a largely hollow open-cellular structure.
Bones are both strong and light due to this composition, and microlattice works on the same basic principle. It is made up of 99.99 percent air, so it’s extremely light, but it has remarkable compression properties.