Boeing’s new metal is 99.99% air and can be used for almost anything
A new video released by Boeing this week claims that the company has invented a metal that’s “99.99 percent air” for future use in airplanes, cars and other objects.
The metal is a microlattice, made up of a series of tubes in a criss-cross pattern and air gaps between each intersection. The microlattice is one of the lightest materials known to man and Boeing says it’s almost ready to go.
The microlattice looks like a sponge or a mesh, and is simultaneously flexible and very strong, according to Boeing. Should it become widely used, Boeing () said the material could help airlines save huge amounts of money.
For example, the video says that if you dropped an egg off a building you’d need about three feet of bubble wrap to stop it from breaking, but with the microlattice metal, you’d need an incredibly small amount to absorb the force of the drop.
Boeing describes the new microlattice as an “open cellular polymer structure.” The main use of the material would be structural components, such as sidewall or floor panels of commercial jets.
The material was jointly developed by HRL Laboratories, a joint venture between Boeing and General Motors (), in collaboration with Cal Tech and UC Irvine. The microlattice weighs only about one tenth as much as carbon fiber, and is actually slightly lighter than air itself, said Bill Carter, the director of the Sensors and Materials Laboratory at HRL.