Metal as light as air? A group of researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are trying. The researchers are trying to make heavy metals like gold, silver and copper “as light as air, in a form so small that it can be carried on the back of a mosquito.”
The researchers created a kind of ultra-low-density metal “foam.” It is an aerogel made up of many randomly connected nanometric-sized wires that form a sort of miniature “marshmallow.” This structure contains, in proportion, the same number, or even less, of air atoms.
The creation of ultra-low density metal structures is a ten-year field of research but, as reported by the physicist Sergei Kucheyev, engaged in this last study, only in the last two years have foams been obtained “of this incredible quality.” These materials with very low density will prove useful for experiments conducted with laser sources of X-rays useful in turn to further probe the properties of various materials in the most extreme conditions.
However, these new materials could also be applied to other uses, such as protective cushions or coatings. The team has now succeeded in making copper and silver foams and is concentrating on the production of gold and tin foams.