New “Metallic Wood” Could Lead to Super-Lightweight Cars

It could also be used to make smartphones.

metallic wood
Researchers developed "metallic wood." (University of Pennsylvania)
By Chase Hill / March 30, 2019 5:00 am

Researchers have created a “metallic wood” that is light enough to float in water but just as strong as titanium, Futurism reports.

It was a team effort to create the tiny piece of metallic wood. Researchers from the University of Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Cambridge all contributed to the project.

The investigators suspended tiny plastic spheres, only a few hundred nanometers wide, in water. Then, the water was evaporated and they coated the spheres in nickel using a process called electroplating. Finally, they used a solvent to dissolve the plastic, leaving behind the nickel lattice.

“The reason we call it metallic wood is not just its density, which is about that of wood, but its cellular nature,” researcher James Pikul said in a press release. “Cellular materials are porous; if you look at wood grain, that’s what you’re seeing — parts that are thick and dense and made to hold the structure, and parts that are porous and made to support biological functions, like transport to and from cells.”

Researchers hope to scale up the process as it currently takes an entire day just to produce a stamp-sized piece of the metallic material. The potential uses for the wood could span across industries from architecture to electronics.

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