World's lightest metal sitting atop a dandelion fluff

Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC

UCI mechanical & aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit and fellow researchers at HRL Laboratories LLC, along with the California Institute of Technology, have won a 2012 Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics for their creation of a micro-lattice metal. The material is lightweight enough to sit atop a dandelion’s fluffy seeds without damaging them (pictured) yet is also extremely strong. “I am really honored to be selected as one of the winners,” Valdevit said. “The material we have developed is ultra-light and ultra-compressible, but more importantly, it’s a unique platform for a novel methodology. This development has been the result of an extraordinary collaboration. I want to thank my colleagues and friends at HRL and Caltech for creating such an enjoyable research environment.” The team was able to make a material that consists of 99.99 percent open volume by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales, using an innovative fabrication process.