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  #1  
Old 14 October 2015, 08:52 PM
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Glasses Boeing says it created lightest metal ever

Boeing says it's created the lightest metal ever, a microlattice material which it describes as 99.99% air.

http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/14/news...tal/index.html
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  #2  
Old 15 October 2015, 02:10 PM
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Glasses

Wow. A piece of news about my company that I actually read in-house before it made it out into the real world!

Seaboe
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  #3  
Old 15 October 2015, 04:57 PM
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That is really cool! Can't wait to see how it works out on the rockets they are working on.

However, it is most certainly not the "lightest" metal ever created, and it is debatable whether it is even the least dense metal ever created. It is the least dense structure made of metal ever made I would say. I came in wondering how they would make an alloy that is less dense than lithium is.
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Old 15 October 2015, 05:15 PM
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Quote:
The material was jointly developed by HRL Laboratories, a joint venture between Boeing and General Motors (GM), in collaboration with Cal Tech and UC Irvine. The microlattice weighs only about one tenth as much as carbon fiber, and is actually slightly lighter than air itself, said Bill Carter, the director of the Sensors and Materials Laboratory at HRL.
From this paragraph, it sounded like they developed both the material and the microlattice structure, but I don't know anything about metals. Still, I didn't see anything in the article that implied they made the microlattice out of existing metals.

~Psihala
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  #5  
Old 15 October 2015, 05:40 PM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
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I had assumed it was a sort of metal foam. There has been experimentation with injecting the ari for a foam into liquid metals and then letting it harden so that you have many of the qualities of a more solid metal, but much lighter and using much less actual metal. Metal foams have also been found to have interesting properies in electrical condiuction, heat transfer, etc. However, this design looks like it is more precisely created than a foam.

Psihala, a true metal is necessarily one of the elements, or a combination of them for an alloy, that sit toward the left of the periodic table. In fact, it's about the left 80% or so of all the elements. So if the description has any accuracy (not neceesarily a given), it is made from one or more of the existing elements. However, there are a number of odd polymers and other non-metal combinations which have been devised which exhibit some metallic properties, and sometimes these are referred to as metals, or 'nonmetal metals' or some other designation showing they have the metal properties.

As for being lighter than lithium, of course, atom for atom that cannot be, unless you count helium (which is technically a metal, but devilishly hard to solidify into a metal state, and is best considered a special category). However, for larger objects, if you can incorporate a lot of unoccupied space betwen the atoms, then the net density of an object of given size can be lighter than a similar size of lithium. AFAIK, lithium is not very amenable to that sort of treatment, though. I am very curious about the claim that it is lighter than air, since it would seem that to make that claim, the object would have to displace a certain amount of air, and the thing in the picture looks like it does not exclude air. I also wonder if the substance can be sufficiently strong or otherwise have the requisite properties.
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Old 15 October 2015, 05:54 PM
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The article says both that it's flexible, and that they intend to use it for, among other things, floor panels. While a little flex in a floor is a good thing, significant flex in a floor is not at all a good thing; so I find this confusing.
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Old 15 October 2015, 05:55 PM
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If the product is a closed-cell foamed metal with voids that contain partial vacuum, the material could be lighter than air.

ETA: The flex would be an issue if they used it for unsupported floor panels.
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Old 15 October 2015, 06:07 PM
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If it needs extra supports (as compared to more rigid flooring materials), that might well cancel out the weight benefits.

-- I suppose I'm imagining making a floor out of something as flexible as, say, a rug material. It wouldn't matter how light you managed to make the rug; you'd need so many supports that it would be lighter overall to just use a rigid flooring.
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Old 15 October 2015, 06:23 PM
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I'm thinking it is closer to plywood flexible than rug flexible.
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Old 15 October 2015, 06:44 PM
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Glasses

So, I guess what happened was a strange Scottish man showed up one day, tried to talk into the mouse, banged away on the keyboard for a few minutes, and then mysteriously vanished along with his gruff associate?
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  #11  
Old 15 October 2015, 06:55 PM
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Glasses

No, TGG, that was this.

Thorny, the thing about flex in a lattice structure is that it is often controllable, and directional. That is, you can make it flex in certain directions, or certain amounts by how you lay out the grid.

Seaboe
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  #12  
Old 15 October 2015, 08:03 PM
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Ah. Thanks, Seaboe.
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Old 16 October 2015, 05:51 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
The article says both that it's flexible, and that they intend to use it for, among other things, floor panels. While a little flex in a floor is a good thing, significant flex in a floor is not at all a good thing; so I find this confusing.
Well, flex is relative, and when you talk flex in metals, it's usually fairly Little compared to other materials. Mild steel, such as, for example, rebar, is considered flexible, and getting hit over the head with a rebar is certainly not like getting hit with a pillow. That a metal is felxible does not mean that it's lika a cleaning sponge.

Also, when you talk about flex in metals, it's often not so much an issue of how easy it is to deform, it's usually more a question of it's ability to go back to the original shape without permanent deformation. This is, in many cases, very important. For example, you don't want a spring that stays compressed once compressed, and you want an aircraft wing that can absorb forces by flexing without becoming permanently bent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
If it needs extra supports (as compared to more rigid flooring materials), that might well cancel out the weight benefits.

-- I suppose I'm imagining making a floor out of something as flexible as, say, a rug material. It wouldn't matter how light you managed to make the rug; you'd need so many supports that it would be lighter overall to just use a rigid flooring.
You could make the supports out of the same material. It's just a matter of how you shape it.

Look at an ordinary wooden porch. You have relatively thin planks on top, which are very flexible, then underneath, you have a bit sturdier planks, standing upright. This means that the bending forces acts on the long cross section direction, where they are extremely rigid.

Actually, often, you have another, sparser layers of sturdy planks, normal to the second layer, which takes up the load and transfers it to the foundations i the ground, as the layer which support the top planks has to be pretty dense (usually 0.5 m center to center), and the bottom layer could have 2 meter cc, which adds up to a lot less foundation elements needed. It also creates an extremly sturdy, inflexible Construction which won't bend under load.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darth Credence View Post
However, it is most certainly not the "lightest" metal ever created, and it is debatable whether it is even the least dense metal ever created. It is the least dense structure made of metal ever made I would say. I came in wondering how they would make an alloy that is less dense than lithium is.
It kind of depends on the definition of metal.

If you don't count the bubbles, it's probably not the lightest, so a chemist woult probably not think it's the lightest.

An engineer, on the other hand, looks at how the finished product will fit his needs, looking at the density, size, strength and other parameters of the piece he is going to use, and he would probably see it as very light.

Example: Compare a solid bar of steel, compared to an H-bar of similar strength. A cemist would argue that they have the same weight (as he would be thinking density), but the engineer, who has a need to fulfil, would se the H-bar as a much lighter alternative, as it would weigh less to give the same strength.

I suspect Boing has more engineers than chemists...
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Old 17 October 2015, 08:12 PM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Example: Compare a solid bar of steel, compared to an H-bar of similar strength. A cemist would argue that they have the same weight (as he would be thinking density), but the engineer, who has a need to fulfil, would se the H-bar as a much lighter alternative, as it would weigh less to give the same strength.
No decent chemist, engineer or physicist would be confused by the very clear, and different, definitions of weight (a force), mass (the amount of material) and density (mass/volume). The title "lightest metal ever" has no technical meaning in the context of the article. If an engineer (or chemist of physicist) said that then they were trying to "dumb it down" for the audience and failed miserably. For the record the "lightest metal ever" was probably created many decades ago. Just google for the first creation of say atomized lithium. A single atom of lithium would the be the "lightest possible metal" and there isn't any metal that could be lighter. The article really should discuss the "lowest density alloy ever".

On flexibility, you actually want a floor to have some flex. A standard supported wood floor is much more comfortable to walk on than is a concrete floor.
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Old 19 October 2015, 05:52 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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An engineer might very well talk about weight as in "how heavy will this construction be if made of this material compared to this other material". He will know the difference between weight, mass and density (and also, that as long as you stay on Earth, in most situations, weight and mass can be used pretty much interchangably), but what he thinks about is the construction he is building. If the resulting wing (for example) weighs less than if made by any other metal, then it would, in his mind, be the lightest metal.

Also, while an engineer knows the difference between the different units, they often slip up when talking, simply because one gets used to non-technical people getting confused, so it's easier to dumb it down.
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