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Engineers Develop Ultrastiff, Ultralight Material

Engineers at MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a new ultrastiff, ultralight material.

The material is based on the use of microlattices with nanoscale features, combining great stiffness and strength with ultralow density. The actual production of such materials is made possible by a high-precision 3-D printing process called projection microstereolithography.

By using the right mathematically determined structures to distribute and direct the loads — the way the arrangement of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal beams do in a structure like the Eiffel Tower — the lighter structure can maintain its strength.

"We found that for a material as light and sparse as aerogel [a kind of glass foam], we see a mechanical stiffness that’s comparable to that of solid rubber, and 400 times stronger than a counterpart of similar density. Such samples can easily withstand a load of more than 160,000 times their own weight,” said Associate Professor Nick Fang.

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