Stories tagged nanomaterials

Earlier this year, researchers created a multiwalled carbon nanotube (MCNT) aerogel", dubbed "frozen smoke", that had a density of only 4 mg/cm3, making it the world's lightest solid material.

New metal - which is 99.9% air - is so light that it can sit atop a dandelion fluff without damaging it: Using an innovative fabrication process developed at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, researchers created a "micro-lattice" structure of interconnected, hollow nickel-phosphorus tubes.
New metal - which is 99.9% air - is so light that it can sit atop a dandelion fluff without damaging it: Using an innovative fabrication process developed at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, researchers created a "micro-lattice" structure of interconnected, hollow nickel-phosphorus tubes.Courtesy Photo by Dan Little © HRL Laboratories, LLC
Not anymore. Frozen smoke is no longer the world's lightest sold material, as researchers from the University of California at Irvine, HGL Laboratories, and California Institute of Technology have developed a material with a density of only 0.9 mg/cm3. This material, composed of a lattice of interconnected, hollow nickel-phosphorous tubes, is 100 times lighter than StyrofoamTM, and is 99.99% open volume, but exhibits impressive strength and energy absorption properties. Potential applications for this material include battery electrodes, catalyst supports, and acoustic, vibration or shock energy damping.

The nanotubes that make up the 0.01% of the material that isn't air have a wall thickness of 100 nanometers - or 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. These tubes are angled to connect at nodes to form repeating, three-dimensional cells shaped similiar to an asterisk.

The research team's paper, "Ultralight Metallic Microlattices," appears in the November 18, 2011 issue of Science.

News Release: Multidisciplinary team of researchers develop world’s lightest material

When you're building nanostructures, the position of each and every atom counts. After all, that's one of the factors that determines, for example, whether a material will be a semiconductor or an insulator, or whether it will start up a process or stop it. But our current imaging techniques aren't precise enough yet to give us full control over nanomaterials. Researchers are working to combine tools we have with new approaches to the data they yield to develop atom maps. Pretty cool.