Airplane maker Boeing has unveiled what it calls the "The Lightest Metal Ever"—called microlattice, the material is a construct that is 99.99 per cent air. It has been developed by Boeing's HRL Laboratories along with colleagues at the University of California and the California Institute of Technology. The material has been developed as a way to reduce weight on airplanes or even rockets—a paper describing the development of the material was written by the team and published in the journal Science back in 2011—though the researchers have not yet revealed what sort of changes have been made since that time.
The more an airplane weighs, the more fuel it uses during takeoff, while flying and during landing, thus efforts to create lighter materials to replace those already in use have been underway for quite some time. The development team has released a video of the new material (in which they refer to it as a 3D open cellular polymer structure) in action—demonstrating its lightness by placing a rectangular cuboid atop a dandelion. The team also points out that the material also has a high degree of absorption, which means it can be depressed and bounce back—another feature that would come in handy on airplanes.