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Microstructured materials as strong as steel yet less dense than water

•, By Grant Banks
 Created using 3D laser polymer printing combined with a ceramic coating, the material is less dense than water but, relative to its size, boasts strength comparable to high-performance steel or aluminum.

Although inspired by nature, the polymer microarchitecture produced by a team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) outperforms its natural counterparts in terms of strength/density ratio. The underlying structure was produced using a process of 3D laser lithography or polymer printing and hardening.

A number of structures were tested, including triangular, hexagonal and honeycomb. These were then coated by gas deposition to provide extra strength, with coatings of a ceramic material and alumina both tested. The polymer structure measured roughly 50 µm long, wide, and high, while various coating thicknesses were tested ranging from 10 nm to 200 nm.

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