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Metallic Microlattice

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Sarah Farron

on 13 September 2013

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Transcript of Metallic Microlattice

Metallic Microlattice
By Sarah Shervell
What's it made of?
The 0.01 percent of the material that isn't air consists of a micro-lattice of interconnected hollow nickel-phosphorous tubes with walls 100 nanometers thick.To put that into perspective, that's about 1000 times thinner than human hair. These tubes are angled to connect at nodes to form repeating, three-dimensional cells, that look a bit like asterisks.
The actual material these tubes are made of, a nickel-phosphorus alloy, contains ionic bonds, as one of the components is metal (nickel), and the other (phosphorus) is non metal. Ionic bonds/ compounds have tend to have high melting and boiling points, so this material is potentially heat-resistant, but unlike most ions, it is not brittle, but in fact quite flexible, and can be compressed to 50 percent strain and still bounce back to it's original shape, as you can see in the following video:
Is there anything wrong with it?
At the moment, the only real disadvantage of the material is its expensiveness. However, with scientists currently working on a more cost-efficient production process, and demand inevitably leading to drops in prices, this problem will soon be eliminated. Within the next few years we could see this metallic microlattice infiltrating the metals industry with its superior properties and innovative architectural design.
How is it structured, what chemical bonds are in it?
Dubbed the 'Eiffel tower of micro-architecture', this material is currently the world's lightest, being 100 times lighter than styrofoam and weighing less than the previous 'lightest material', multiwalled carbon nanotube aerogel (frozen smoke). In fact, it is so light that it can sit on the top of dandelion fluff without damaging it, and takes 5-10 seconds to float to the floor when dropped.
How is it made?
Processes used to produce it...
1) A polymer template is produced by placing a mask patterned with circular holes over a reservoir of a photosensitive thiol-ene monomer.
2) UV light is shone on the mask and where the light meets the monomer it polymerises it. 'As the light begins to polymerise the liquid monomer, the change in refractive index between the polymer and monomer begins to tunnel the light, just as in a fibre optic.' (Tobias Schaedler, leader of production team). 'This leads to the formation of a self-propagating photopolymer waveguide, or fibre, within the monomer reservoir.
3) These waveguides are formed in multiple directions and intersect together, creating an interconnected network.
4) Uncured liquid monomer is cleaned out with a solvent, and the result is a micro-lattice structure, where the self-propagating waveguides are the individual structural lattice members.
5) This lattice template is then dipped in a catalyst solution before being transferred to a nickel-phosphorus solution.
6)The nickel-phosphorus alloy is then deposited catalytically on the surface of the polymer struts to a thickness of around 100nm. Once coated, the polymer is etched away with sodium hydroxide, leaving an identical lattice geometry of hollow nickel-phosphorus tubes.
The ultra-light material was developed by Architected Materials group at HRL Laboratories, an R&D facility owned by General Motors and Boeing in Malibu, California. Made of hollow tubes just 100 nanometers across that are formed in a micro-lattice process, the microlattice is 99.99% open volume. The technology for this material was developed with countless applications in thought, including battery electrodes, catalyst supports, and acoustic, vibration or shock energy damping. Other suggested uses include impact technology, saving laptops or phones, and even earthquake management.
What's so good about it?
With it's light-weight, durability, flexibility and its ability to absorb acoustic, shock and vibration energy, the list of uses for this microlattice is extensive to say the least.
In particular, it could potentially revolutionize car manufacturing. Imagine a car body lighter than the same design made of Styrofoam, but able to absorb an impact and return to its former shape. Lighter cars also means less drag and better fuel efficiency, and the ability to absorb so much energy is a safety benefit, too.

I chose each of these sources because they were from/sourced from academic newsletters/magazines and/or they contained direct quotes from the producers of the material.
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