Scientists have built a nickel-based cellular material, which has the strength of titanium and the density of water. They call it as a “metallic wood,” because it has the high mechanical strength and chemical stability of metal, as well as a density close to that of natural materials such as wood.
In a new paper published in Nature Scientific Reports, Penn Engineershave described the details about this Metallic Wood and its fabrication from nickel inverse opals.
The metallic wood can be easily fabricated over 100 mm2 areas, can be processed at room temperature, and can be combined with additional functional materials, as demonstrated with the rhenium coatings. The high strength continuous metallic architecture with isotropic elasticity, high hardness, and high strain energy storage could be important for a variety of applications such as energy storage, heat transport, and sensors.
The materials needed for creating this Metallic Wood are not expensive. But currently, the Infrastructure required for processing them at nano-scale is limited. Once that infrastructure is developed, economies of scale should make producing meaningful quantities of metallic wood faster and less expensive.
“The reason we call it metallic wood is not just its density, which is about that of wood, but its cellular nature,”James Pikul, The Researcher.
And just as the porosity of wood grain serves the biological function of transporting energy, the empty space in the researchers’ “metallic wood” could be infused with other materials. Infusing the scaffolding with anode and cathode materials would enable this metallic wood to serve double duty: a plane wing or prosthetic leg that’s also a battery.