New Composite Metal Foam Shows Amazing Potential For a Range of Applications

Image Credit: North Carolina State University

Researchers at the North Carolina State University have developed a novel composite metal foam (CMF) which they claim is going to be a market-disrupting force.

The material consists of metallic bubbles filled with air and then embedded within a metal matrix that can be made out of steel, aluminum, or any alloy.

The benefit of this approach is to make the material extremely light while still enjoying the strength and rigidity of solid metals. Roughly 70% of the structure is air, so the difference in mass is dramatic.

This CMF has been under development by aerospace engineering professor Afsaneh Rabiei for two decades now, and as she underlines, she devoted so much time on this project to make the world a better and safer place, not to get rich.

Indeed, if the CMF was to be used in aerospace and transportation, the fuel savings and by extension the environmental damage from emissions would dwindle down to unheard-of levels. But is the metal foam really strong enough for applications of this kind?

As demonstrated by researchers at the NC State University in the following video, an one-inch thick plate from their special CMF is enough to stop 0.50 caliber rounds, resulting in an almost negligible backplate indentation.

This also means that the CMF could be used for making lighter and more comfortable bulletproof vests and armored vehicles. The application potential for a strong metal that is super-light is practically endless, and this has the team all over the place right now.

As Rabiei explains, the properties of the foam have been perfected over the year, so the team is now working on scaling up production, streamlining retrofitting, and negotiating with end-users for licensing the technology.

The inventor believes it’s just a matter of time to see her creation conquering all markets and becoming omnipresent even in households, and only hopes she’ll be alive to see it happen.

Bianca Van der Watt

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