Researcher Creates Super-Strong Metal That Can Float

Metal is a commonly used material on boats, cars, and other similar structures because of its strength, but it brings with it downsides, one of the biggest being its weight. In the future this might not be a problem, in that work is being done now to retain (or even surpass) a metal's strength while at the same time making the material considerably lighter. One researcher in particular, Nikhil Gupta of NYU Polytechnic University, has been working on something he calls "syntactic foam", which are various composite materials that are super strong — and in one case, boasting a low enough density to float on water.

Syntactic foam features "hollow particles" that result in a piece of metal that somewhat resembles Swiss cheese, and that is light weight. One foam in particular, a magnesium alloy version, has such a low density that it can float on water...something that has obvious potential benefits for use in boat construction. Still, says Gupta, the metal is one of the strongest (relative to its weight) that exist.

The researcher is staying somewhat quiet about his new foam at this point because he's awaiting publication of a paper that details the discovery. What we do know, however, is that the metal is the first metallic syntactic foam that has a density that is lower than water, allowing it to float.

The spheres within the foam are said to be able to handle in excess of 25,000 pounds per square inch of pressure — for reference, that is about 100 times a firehose's water pressure, as noted by Vice. This particular foam is expected to find uses in boats, including military vessels, but the researcher also envisions it being used to create lighter cars. Mass production is estimated to viable in three years.