The key is its latticework internal structure, which gives it great resilience
The investigation, partially financed by the US Defense Department, will have applications in the aeronautics and the automotive sectors, among others
A team of researchers at MIT and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has developed a new extremely rigid and resistant ultra-light material, an aerogel, created with a new 3D printing system.
What Differentiates the Eiffel Tower from the Washington Monument?
As explained on the MIT website, the fundamental difference between the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower – both monuments characterised by their strong structure – is that the famous tower was built using a framework of girders and struts, the majority of which are exposed to the open air. Unlike the Washington Monument, constructed from solid stone, the strength of the Eiffel Tower lies in the geometrical positioning of its parts.
The research team has managed to micro-scale this extraordinarily strong mesh and design a 3D printing system which can fabricate these types of structures using a wide variety of materials. To put it another way, they have obtained nanostructure materials based on the repetition of microscopic units, which combine great rigidity and resilience with a very low density. So far they have worked with polymer, metal and ceramic frameworks. This means that the applications in the manufacture of cars, planes or spacecraft are extremely diverse given that we are talking about stable structures which can support 160,000 times their own weight while also being incredibly light. Unsurprisingly, the research has received funding from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), among others.
The researcher Nicholas Fang explains the basis of his work in the magazine Science: “Normally, 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 lighter structure can maintain its strength.” In fact, 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.”
In the video above, Professor Fang explains the research and some of its applications.
As we can see, the materials subjected to this micro-architecture have properties which do not depend on their chemical composition, but rather on their geometric design. In addition to the applications mentioned above, there are also possibilities in the field of medicine and, for instance, the manufacture of much lighter batteries for portable devices.
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