Boeing unveils metal that is ‘slightly lighter than air’

Boeing claims to have created the worlds lightest metal, stating how the breakthrough could have major implications for aircraft and automotive fuel efficiency. The material is composed of a microlattice structure made of 99.99% air which makes it light enough to balance on top of a dandelion.

The research comes from a partnership between the University of California Irvine, the California Institute of Technology, and HRL Laboratories, and research collaboration between Boeing and General Motors.

Bill Carter, director of the Sensors and Materials Laboratory at HRL, said: "The microlattice weighs only about one tenth as much as carbon fibre, and is actually slightly lighter than air itself."

The material is made of a 3D open-cellular polymer structure composed of small, hollow metallic tubes. Boeing said it can be compared to bone structure, where the outside is rigid and firm but the inside is mostly hollow – meaning the material is lightweight but not easily crushed.

It is made of nickel-phosphorus alloy coated thinly onto an open polymer structure. The polymer is removed, leaving only the metal structure made of 100nm thick walls.

The material is planned to be used first in space rockets, and then in commercial planes in about 10 years.

"One of the main applications we have been looking into is structural components for aerospace," Sophia Yang, research scientist at HRL Laboratories. "In the future, the material can help Boeing to save a lot of weight, to make the airplanes more fuel efficient."

Tom Austin-Morgan

This material is protected by MA Business copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.


Do you have any comments about this article?
This is a breakthrough beyond my imagination. What is the probability of me getting some relitively small samples to experiment with. I have an application for it and would need a hunded thousand pieces thin as practicle x 2" x 12". I'm serious even though I believe my chances of getting it are less than the remainder of 99.99% However you could surprise me. I'll pay for the shipping cost.... Steven Miles FitzGerald @

Comment Steve FitzGerald, 17/01/2016
The article is amazing, fantastic achievement, I am not sure how it might best be used.
However, it is extremely annoying to have video with audio which opens automatically, blasting out wherevere I am, at breakfast, in company, wherever. PLEASE do not do that! it is a growing cancer in too many sites, which I see as arrogant, assuming that I can want nothing more than to listen to your audio.

Comment Rod Dalitz, 23/11/2015

Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

© MA Business Ltd (a Mark Allen Group Company) 2022