For years, Boeing has been developing an extremely lightweight material that could be used for airplane parts. Despite being made from metal and being nearly as strong as titanium, the material is 100 times lighter than styrofoam.
This week, they released a video explaining how the material is made:
The secret to the weightlessness is in the structure: the material is made up of a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes that are 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. The video likens the architecture of the metal to bone structure–hollow in the middle but not easily crushed, and lightweight at the same time. The entire structure is 99.99% air.
Naturally, Boeing is looking into applications of the material in structural components for aerospace. “When I get on a plane and I’m leaning against the sidewall panel and putting my luggage in the stow bin or I’m walking along the floor panels, I think the microlattice could be used in one of these situations,” says Sophia Yang, research scientist for HRL, the research institute that does R&D for Boeing. Replacing heavier metal parts with microlattice material would save a lot of fuel, and its springy material could be helpful for absorbing sound and heat.
It’s also worth noting that HRL is jointly owned by General Motors, so it’s likely scientists are also considering ways to use microlattice for car parts. And because its easy to manipulated and produced quickly, it’s perfect for rapid manufacturing.