What’s the difference between the Eiffel Tower and the Washington Monument? Both structures soar to impressive heights, and each was the world’s tallest building when completed. But the Washington Monument is a massive stone structure, while the Eiffel Tower achieves similar strength using a lattice of steel beams and struts that is mostly open air, gaining its strength from the geometric arrangement of those elements. A visualization shows a full array of the unit cells, which produces a material that is exceptionally light while also having exceptional strength and stiffness. This microscope image shows a single unit of the structure developed by the team, called a stretch-dominated octet truss unit cell, made from a polymer using 3-D microstereolithography.Photo courtesy of the researchers Now engineers at MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have devised a way to translate that airy, yet remarkably strong, structure down to the microscale — designing a system that could be fabricated from a variety of materials, such as metals or polymers, and that may set new records for stiffness for a given weight. The new design is described in the journal Science by MIT’s Nicholas Fang; former postdoc Howon Lee, now an assistant professor at Rutgers University;
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