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New Material Developed by Scientists
Metallic Wood is the name of a new material that is developed by the scientists of University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the University of Cambridge, and Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.
5 Times Lighter than Titanium
Although it’s not a new element and basically consists of nickel, it is four to five times lighter than titanium thanks to its unique porous construction which is similar to natural materials such as wood: hence the name Metallic Wood.
The study was led by James Pikul, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at Penn Engineering. Here is what he had to say about this material:
“The reason we call it metallic wood is not just its density, which is about that of wood, but its cellular nature. 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.”
“Our structure is similar. We have areas that are thick and dense with strong metal struts, and areas that are porous with air gaps. We’re just operating at the length scales where the strength of struts approaches the theoretical maximum.”
One of the key elements of such an impressive result is that the structure of the material is as close to perfect as possible. Imperfections in the structure are what make many materials such as titanium less stronger and prone to failure than they could potentially be if they had a perfect structure. The technology of making the Metallic Wood is quite interesting. Here is how it is described by Penn Engineering:
Electroplated ‘Cannon Balls’
Pikul’s method starts with tiny plastic spheres, a few hundred nanometers in diameter, suspended in water. When the water is slowly evaporated, the spheres settle and stack like cannonballs, providing an orderly, crystalline framework. Using electroplating, the same technique that adds a thin layer of chrome to a hubcap, the researchers then infiltrate the plastic spheres with nickel. Once the nickel is in place, the plastic spheres are dissolved with a solvent, leaving an open network of metallic struts.
3D render of steps creating Metallic Wood. Nickel is blue. The last step shows other materials (yellow) coated over nickel.
Nano Scale Engineering
The struts in the Metallic Wood are around 10 nanometers wide (about 100 nickel atoms across). Penn Engineering admits that although materials with such a structure and precision can be built by 3D printing, their method is much faster and more flexible in terms of scalability. However, the characteristics and behavior of larger size objects made of this material are yet to be studied. Currently, they have made a foil from this material.
Metallic Wood foil on a plastic backing
Energy Storage Potential
The pores make the 70% of the Metallic Wood which makes its density close to that of water. This feature may allow the material to float. Additionally, the pores can be filled with other materials such as energy storing substances. The latter would allow having various devices whose bodies double as batteries. Another potential advantage of this material could be its cost because it is made of relatively cheap nickel. Of course, that would be possible if the manufacturing technology is made cost-effective, too.
Defence & Body Armour
From the standpoint of the defense and firearms industries, if such a material can be built to a sufficient thickness, matching the claimed characteristics and at a reasonable cost, it may allow developing a wide variety of revolutionary new products: body and vehicle armor, small arms, projectiles, unmanned vehicles, fighter jets, submarines … you name it.Read original full study on Nature Scientific Reports website.
Timber – but not as we know it.
Adopting and Adapting Nature is an important step for engineers, architects and all who strive for improved, lower cost, more environmentally sustainable materials. Design Thinking can be mind-bending – and requires the ability to ‘think out of the box’. We are noted for doing just that and take pride in delivering building solutions to help others realise their development goals. By keeping abreast of developments and collaborating with architects and designers we aim to turn concepts into factory built components for on-site assembly. In this respect we believe we are at the forefront of making DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) a reality. It begins with the way we design, specify and incorporate ‘appropriate’ technology into all buildings. It also draws together concepts from over 50 years interest in sustainable development.
DfMA at the forefront
As Off-Site construction matures into Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) it is clearly at the forefront as an enabler for such delivery. New homes will very soon be ‘Smart’ in numerous ways, including full incorporation of energy saving and TIoT (the internet of things) to deliver major components. This is something that ‘Off-Site’. DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) will need to seriously consider as the industry moves forward.
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers is needed to accomplish this The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability to incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something w have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results.