Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed

Date:
June 19, 2014
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
What's the difference between the Eiffel Tower and the Washington Monument? Both structures soar to impressive heights, and each was the world's tallest building when completed. But the Washington Monument is a massive stone structure, while the Eiffel Tower achieves similar strength using a lattice of steel beams and struts that is mostly open air, gaining its strength from the geometric arrangement of those elements. Now engineers have devised a way to translate that airy, yet remarkably strong, structure down to the microscale -- designing a system that could be fabricated from a variety of materials, such as metals or polymers, and that may set new records for stiffness for a given weight. Nanostructured material, based on repeating units, has record stiffness at low density.

This microscope image shows a single unit of the structure developed by the team, called a stretch-dominated octet truss unit cell, made from a polymer using 3-D microstereolithography.
Credit: Courtesy of the researchers

What's the difference between the Eiffel Tower and the Washington Monument? Both structures soar to impressive heights, and each was the world's tallest building when completed. But the Washington Monument is a massive stone structure, while the Eiffel Tower achieves similar strength using a lattice of steel beams and struts that is mostly open air, gaining its strength from the geometric arrangement of those elements.

Now engineers at MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have devised a way to translate that airy, yet remarkably strong, structure down to the microscale -- designing a system that could be fabricated from a variety of materials, such as metals or polymers, and that may set new records for stiffness for a given weight.

The new design is described in the journal Science by MIT's Nicholas Fang; former postdoc Howon Lee, now an assistant professor at Rutgers University; visiting research fellow Qi "Kevin" Ge; LLNL's Christopher Spadaccini and Xiaoyu "Rayne" Zheng; and eight others.

The design is based on the use of microlattices with nanoscale features, combining great stiffness and strength with ultralow density, the authors say. The actual production of such materials is made possible by a high-precision 3-D printing process called projection microstereolithography, as a result of the joint research collaboration between the Fang and Spadaccini groups since 2008.

Normally, Fang explains, stiffness and strength declines with the density of any material; that's why when bone density decreases, fractures become more likely. But using the right mathematically determined structures to distribute and direct the loads -- the way the arrangement of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal beams do in a structure like the Eiffel Tower -- the lighter structure can maintain its strength.

A pleasant surprise

The geometric basis for such microstructures was determined more than a decade ago, Fang says, but it took years to transfer that mathematical understanding "to something we can print, using a digital projection -- to convert this solid model on paper to something we can hold in our hand." The result was "a pleasant surprise to us," he adds, performing even better than anticipated.

"We found that for a material as light and sparse as aerogel [a kind of glass foam], we see a mechanical stiffness that's comparable to that of solid rubber, and 400 times stronger than a counterpart of similar density. Such samples can easily withstand a load of more than 160,000 times their own weight," says Fang, the Brit and Alex d'Arbeloff Career Development Associate Professor in Engineering Design. So far, the researchers at MIT and LLNL have tested the process using three engineering materials -- metal, ceramic, and polymer -- and all showed the same properties of being stiff at light weight.

"This material is among the lightest in the world," LLNL's Spadaccini says. "However, because of its microarchitected layout, it performs with four orders of magnitude higher stiffness than unstructured materials, like aerogels, at a comparable density."

Light material, heavy loads

This approach could be useful anywhere there's a need for a combination of high stiffness (for load bearing), high strength, and light weight -- such as in structures to be deployed in space, where every bit of weight adds significantly to the cost of launch. But Fang says there may also be applications at smaller scale, such as in batteries for portable devices, where reduced weight is also highly desirable.

Another property of these materials is that they conduct sound and elastic waves very uniformly, meaning they could lead to new acoustic metamaterials, Fang says, that could help control how waves bend over a curved surface.

Others have suggested similar structural principles over the years, such as a proposal last year by researchers at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) for materials that could be cut out as flat panels and assembled into tiny unit cells to make larger structures. But that concept would require assembly by robotic systems that have yet to be developed, says Fang, who has discussed this work with CBA researchers. This technique, he says, uses 3-D printing technology that can be implemented now.

Martin Wegener, a professor of mechanical engineering at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany who was not involved in this research, says, "Achieving metamaterials that are ultralight in weight, yet stiffer than you would expect from usual scaling laws for elastic solids, is of obvious technological interest. The paper makes an interesting contribution in this direction."

The work was supported by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and LLNL.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by David L. Chandler. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140619142214.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2014, June 19). New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140619142214.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140619142214.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins