This new material redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture. Using an innovative fabrication process developed by HRL senior scientist Dr. Alan Jacobsen, the team was able to make a material that consists of 99.99% open volume by designing the 0.01% solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales. “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness of 100 nanometers, 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler.
In addition to its ultra-low density, the material’s cellular architecture gives rise to unprecedented mechanical behavior for a metal, including complete recovery from compression exceeding 50% strain and extraordinarily high energy absorption. Developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the novel material could be used for battery electrodes, catalyst supports, and acoustic, vibration or shock energy damping.
"The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness of 100 nanometers, 1,000 times thinner than a human hair," said Tobias Schaedler, the HRL researcher who's lead author of the paper. Another HRL author, Bill Carter, likened the design to a small-scale version of the Eiffel Tower: strong, but mostly air.
This sequence of photos shows the nickel lattice being compressed for the first time, then rebounding. After a 50 percent compression, it rebounds to 98 percent its original height.