'Microlattice' is the lightest-ever metal, not a small pastry

'Microlattice' is the lightest ever metal

Lighter aircraft can carry more weight with less fuel, which is why the airline industry is constantly researching new materials. The latest is a metal consisting of 99.99% air, developed by engineers at Boeing.

They've called the material 'microlattice', because it consists of a network of tiny tubes with a wall thickness of just 100 nanometres. It's made by an etching process, where a template is created, covered with nickel plating, and then removed with chemicals.

That method was published back in 2011, and it's unclear what changes Boeing's engineers have made since then. Now, however, they've published a video showing some of its properties:

As you can see, the result is a material that's incredibly lightweight and has a high degree of flexibility -allowing it to be depressed and bounce back. That's a handy feature to have on planes, which have to be flexible to cope with turbulence.

It's unlikely to be used as a major structural component immediately, Boeing says. Instead, it'll be used inside the cabin - under the floor, in overhead lockers, or as part of other fixtures.