The Two-Way
6:43 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Cool Photo: Scientists Present 'Lightest Material On Earth'

We were stunned when we saw this image:

According to HRL Laboratories that is an "ultralight metallic microlattice" sitting atop a dandelion. The material was developed by scientists at HRL, The California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Irvine.

The material is 99.99 percent air and 100 times lighter than styrofoam.

It seems hard to believe, but their findings are published in today's issue of the the peer-reviewed journal Science.

The Los Angeles Times reports on what the uses of such a material could be:

"That's still to be determined. Lorenzo Valdevit, UCI's principal investigator on the project, brought up impact protection, uses in the aerospace industry, acoustic dampening and maybe some battery applications.

"In the meantime, we asked Bill Carter what would happen if we threw this material in the air and waited for it to fall to the ground.

"'It's sort of like a feather — it floats down, and its terminal velocity depends on the density,' he said. 'It takes more than 10 seconds, for instance, for the lightest material we've made to fall if you drop it from shoulder height.'"

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.