A group of researchers at Penn University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Cambridge have made a breakthrough with a very strong but very light material. The material is a laminate of nickel with nano-scale pores that makes it as strong as titanium, but four to five times lighter. The material has a nanoscale pore on its surface that is made by a self-assembly process that causes porous metal to be similar to natural materials such as wood.
The empty space of the creation could be infused with other materials. The team says that if the pores are infused with anode and cathode materials, metal wood could be used for things such as an airplane wing or a prosthetic bed that is also a battery The material is known as metal wood due to its density, which is on wood, but also due to the cellular nature of the material.
Cellular materials are porous, which is what we see when we observe the wood. The team says that some parts of natural wood are intended to support material and other more porous sections intended for transport to and from cells within the tree. The structure of this new material is similar.
The material areas are thick and dense with strong metal screws, while others are porous with air gaps. The props of the material are about 10 nanometers wide. The material is created from small plastic spheres that are a few nanometers in diameter that are suspended in water.
As the water evaporates, the spheres are set and stacked as a cannon ball by giving a neat and crystalline frame. These spheres are then infused with nickel using electroplating. Once the nickel is applied, the spheres are dissolved with a solvent leaving an open network of metal struts in the material. Nearly 70% of the space of the material produced is an empty space that gives a density to the water and allows the material to float.