Microarchitecture: Lightweight Construction Materials of Highest Stability

March 24, 2014

Lightweight construction materials modeled on nature; high stability at low density; ceramic microstructures produced by 3-D laser writing

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The framework construction made of a ceramic-polymer composite is highly stable, although the individual elements have a thickness of a few hundred nanometers only.
Credit: Picture: J. Bauer/KIT

Researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed microstructured lightweight construction materials that show extremely high stability. The density of this material is said to be below that of water, yet their stability relative to weight exceeds that of heavier materials like high-performance steel or aluminum.

These lightweight construction materials feature a framework structure similar to  the shell structure of the bees’ honeycombs. The results of this research are now presented in the journal PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1315147111.

This discovery may have a telling impact on new materials for the construction industry.

“The novel lightweight construction materials resemble the framework structure of a half-timbered house with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal struts,” said Jens Bauer, KIT, adding these beams are only 10 µm in size.

In total, the lightweight construction elements are about 50 µm long, wide, and high.

“Nature also uses open-pore, non-massive structures for carrying loads,” said Oliver Kraft, KIT. Examples he uses are wood and bones. At the same density, however, the novel material produced in the laboratory can carry a much higher load.<