Pushing the Boundaries of Lightweight Metals

In recent years we have seen the arrival of leading edge materials that boast a prize combination of characteristics. They are known as Micro lattice structures, and their super-porousness in conjunction with high-caliber strength has the created ripples of what could be significant waves in the AEC industry and many others. Particularly, mankind’s endeavor and industry of space exploration. In the future, these materials will allow the feasibility of taller and taller constructs, increasingly efficient vehicles, and revamp our methods of manufacturing.

The materials at the forefront of this  movement have consisted primarily of light weight metals such as aluminum, nickel and also the fourth most abundant element in the universe, carbon. There have been no newly discovered metals, materials, or composites; no newly derived material characteristics. What has been found are new means of manufacturing and processing elements at a micro scale. It is our ever expanding and advancing technology, becoming increasingly precise at the micro scale, that has allowed us to produce these new material formations. We can now create material formations that are reminiscent of robust designs found in nature, such as bones.

These material innovations are still in their infancy. You won’t find them in your local store any time soon. However, within our lifetimes it is likely that these micro lattice elements will be implemented into the fabrication of a wide range of vehicles used throughout our society. Cars and airplanes are currently being looked at to be the first to phase in these materials. While these goals are quite practical and commendable because of their perceived ability to drastically cut down on fuel consumption, I believe we should both metaphorically and actually reach for the stars with these material goals. When I imagine the possibilities of these materials, I envision their further exploration and eventual implementation into the construction of a space elevator.

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An elevator of this size if actually found feasible would rapidly increase mankind’s ability to colonize off planet. A required ability as our increasing population strains the Earth far past its limits. These structures are still very much theoretical. With existing materials and technologies not nearly advance enough to compensate for the numerous logistical, economic and structural issues of a building a 22,000-mile elevator.

However, not all is lost!

The recent development of these micro lattices in addition to other existing materials, are quite capable of building an elevator from the surface of the moon near to Earth’s atmosphere. If this moon project is undertaken it could provide important data on how to go about constructing and operating such a construct. While also buying time for our technology and material manufacturing to become advanced enough to apply to an Earth bound elevator.

space-elevator

This is all very far off in our future, but could arguably be one of the most impressive constructs humanity ever builds.  However, after the results of the U.S. presidential election, let us first hope humanity makes it through the next four years.

 

Nathan CruzRak                                                                                                        Journal 10

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