Tiny synthetic structures are as sturdy as metal
Courtesy of J. Bauer
Stacks of wee honeycomb structures that resemble the build of bone can form super strong, lightweight matter unmatched by current construction materials.
Strong but light materials could be useful for everything from armor to insulation but are tricky to design. The strongest known materials, such as steel and diamonds, can withstand thousands of megapascals of pressure but have densities well above 1,000 kilograms per cubic meter.
To design a tough material without the bulk, Jens Bauer and colleagues at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany swiped the microstructure of bone, which consists of hollow units stacked into sturdy structures. Using ceramic-polymer mixes and 3-D laser printing, Bauer and his team created airy but brawny honeycomb structures, which were each about 10 cubic micrometers or smaller.