The Ultralight Micro-Lattice is an engineered metal mesh that is 100 times lighter than Styrofoam packing peanuts. It can be compressed by up to 50 per cent and bounce perfectly back into shape.
The basic structure is made when beams of UV light are shot into a light-sensitive liquid resin that hardens into a lattice structure. This is similar to the two-dimensional photolithographic process used to create microchips, but done in three dimensions. The resin lattice is then dipped into liquid metal, and, once the metal cools into a solid, the resin is dissolved away.
The resulting metal mesh is hollow and light, like bird bones, yet structurally robust. It can be used as a cushioning or insulating material in cars or aircraft, and it has potential applications in the medical field as a possible scaffold for new bone growth.
This video explains more about the ultralight metallic micro-lattice, including how it’s formed…
The micro-engineered metal lattice was recognised in the Popular Mechanics 2012 Breakthrough Awards – an annual competition where we salute the greatest advances. Get your hands on PM’s Dec ’12 issue – on sale on 19 November – to find out about the best bold ideas of 2012.
Credits: Boeing; Photo by Dan Little; © HRL Laboratories, LLC.