'Metallic Wood' Strong Like Titanium, Floats In Water

Researchers have created a “metallic wood” that’s as strong as titanium, but light enough to float in water.


(High strength metallic wood from nanostructured nickel inverse opal materials)

First they suspended tiny plastic spheres, each a few hundred nanometers wide, in water. Then they evaporated the water, which caused the spheres to stack in an orderly pattern. After that, they used a process called electroplating to coat the spheres in nickel. Finally, they used a solvent to dissolve the plastic spheres, leaving just the nickel lattice in place.

About 70 percent of the resulting material is empty space, but this low density isn’t the only thing the material has in common with wood.

“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.”

I'm pretty sure I've read about something similar from the imagination of Edgar Rice Burroughs; fans may recall an ultralight metal called "Harbenite":

Erich von Harben is something of a scientist and explorer himself, and the last time that I saw him he had just returned from a second expedition into the Wiramwazi Mountains, where he told me that he had discovered a lake-dwelling tribe using canoes made of a metal that was apparently as light as cork and stronger than steel. He brought some samples of the metal back with him..."
(Read more about Harbenite)

From High strength metallic wood from nanostructured nickel inverse opal materials via Futurism.

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