We’re getting another close-up look at extremely strong and ultra-lightweight materials being created at the California Institute of Technology.
Researchers in the lab of materials science and mechanics professor Julia Greer are using a direct laser writing method called two-photon lithography to develop intricate trusswork that are extremely low density. In this process, they fire a laser into a polymer, which hardens at the light’s focal point. After washing the rest of the unhardened polymer away, the hardened scaffold that remains is coated with any number of substances like metals, ceramic or semiconducting compounds. The trusses pictured above were coated with the brittle ceramic aluminum oxide.
Greer says that making complex structures at the nanoscopic scale–truss members can be billionths of a meter wide–allows engineers to impart desired characteristics to the tailored material.