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06. Safe fragrances
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12 Bacteria in agriculture and industry
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Vol. 7, No. 1. January 31, 2012
ISSN 1932-3018

Ultra-light solids
Positioning this technology in the
Functionality Grid
Reformatted from: Van Wyk, Rias J: Technology - A Unifying Code, 2004, SMG, Cape Town, p.34. Based on: Ropohl, Gunter: Eine Systemtheorie der Technik, 1979, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich and Vienna, p.178.
This Newsbrief deals with a new class of ultra-light solid material. More specifically it describe a material with a new kind of micro-structure. This requires less matter than before to perform a given task. In terms of the Atlas of Technology it is concerned with the processing of matter (M).
Materials scientists and engineers are engaged in a continuous quest to improve the strength to weight ratio of their products. Paths of progressioninclude:
  • Improving material strength as such
  • Reducing the mass to volume ratio
Until recently the lightest solids have been aerogels, that weigh 0.5 percent of the weight of Styrofoam, and with a density of 1 milligram per cubiccentimeter. Now a new kind of solid is available with a density of 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter (Choi, Charles, 2011, "World’s Lightest Solid Takes Inspiration from Eiffel Tower" Yahoo News, November 18.)
According to Tobias Schaedler of HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, lightness and strength is achieved by mimicking architectural designs to create orderly structures in the molecule. In this case the developers worked with a photo-sensitive polymer that assumed a lattice design when activatedby light. They then coated the lattice with a nickel-phosphorous alloy.
The material is in the laboratory phase and, on the NASA nine point scale, is at a technology readiness level (TRL) of about 4.
Technology explorers should note the possible proliferation of the production process, and its application to other materials.

© Rias J. van Wyk, 2013. Editor.